The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014

 

Music in Van Wert

By: Paul Hoverman

 

It was October 21, 1953, when the headlines in the Van Wert Times-Bulletin announced a new concert association had been established in Van Wert.  Columbia Artists out of New York sent a representative to our hometown and met with some local cultural visionaries to hammer out details of what would become the Van Wert County Community Concert Association.

A membership drive would be held in the lobby of the Marsh Hotel for exactly one week.  They were hopeful of selling close to 900 memberships that would be the capacity of Lincoln Auditorium, where concerts would be held.  After that one-week campaign, there would be no more memberships sold and no single tickets would be sold for the concerts. Nearly 150 volunteer campaign workers would be disbursed throughout the area, selling season memberships in hopes of reaching their goal.  Here’s an interesting note from the article, “A temporary phone number would be installed for people to call into the headquarters at the Marsh Hotel.”  My, how far we have come in a relatively short amount of time!

Herbert Jones, a very well respected music teacher in the Van Wert Schools, was elected president, Mrs. James Johnson, secretary and James Hall, treasurer.  Memberships cost $6 for adults and $3 for students.  That first season consisted of the world famous DePaur Infantry Chorus (“37 male negro singers”; their words, not mine), and two other concerts to be selected. Sixty years ago, people attended concerts for the experience, not necessarily for who they were. Today’s audiences are a little more discriminating, to say the least.

I could go on and on about the history of this cherished music series. There are many people still in our community today who remember the beginnings of Community Concerts in Van Wert.  I was fortunate to have shared many good memories with some of you.

Today, we respect the past and look to the future with Community Concerts at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. This Saturday is a big day in the life of Community Concerts as we celebrate the end of the 61st year and announce six huge concerts for next season.  Although we have changed venues from Lincoln Auditorium to the Marsh Auditorium and now the Niswonger, we strive to keep the integrity of Community Concerts while adding a present zest and zeal to the series.

Saturday evening’s concert features the award-winning Voices of Unity Youth Choir from Fort Wayne.  Over the years, many youth choirs have performed for Community Concerts, but not many like the Voices of Unity singers.  This choir consists of many inner-city youths who have discovered discipline and education, friendships and loyalty through their involvement.  And because of their close proximity to Van Wert, they are bringing their entire entourage of singers: over 100 vibrant kids who can’t wait to display their talents on our stage for you. You can still get tickets for this concert. That’s one of a few things that has changed over the years — if you want to attend and if we have seats available, you can purchase a single ticket and enjoy this great concert!

That being said, you will really enjoy the entire new season we are about to unveil Saturday night; and it is certainly the best value to buy the entire season. Many of you will soon be receiving our mailer describing all the details and concerts. I am confident you will be excited by next year’s line-up, as it features two of the most admired TV stars of all time as well as exciting and inspiring artists of all genres of music and dance.

We can’t wait to share the new season with you this Saturday evening!

FINÉ.

POSTED: 04/23/14 at 6:11 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

On Saturday, April 26, a Fort Wayne inner city youth ministry will come to life on the stage of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.  The World Champion Voices of Unity Youth Choir will explode onto our stage in a concert of positive musical energy.  This is the finale of the Community Concert Series this year; one that started with a hugely successful Debby Boone concert in October and now culminates on April 26 with this magnificent show!

The Voices of Unity Youth Choir is Unity’s acclaimed Youth Choral Program.  It is their premier soulful choral group comprised of young people ages 7 to 19 from various backgrounds in the Fort Wayne community and beyond. One of their members this year is Van Wert’s very own, James DeFore.

The youth choir is one of just many facets of this performing arts organization established in 2000 by founder, leader and music director, Marshall White.  The purpose of the organization is to empower and develop young people in the areas of character, artistry, and leadership.  The focus is on soulful art forms through education, training, and entertainment in the areas of choral music, dance, drama, creative writing, oratory, and instrumental music.  Their core values include quality, equality, integrity, accountability, and respect.  Those who know or have experienced Voices of Unity are well aware of its success in transforming lives in a very positive way.

Voices of Unity Choir

Voices of Unity Choir

If you have never experienced a Voices of Unity Youth Choir performance, get ready for a night of soulful inspiration and mega-entertainment!  Much of their show they are bringing to the Niswonger will feature tributes to Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.  I had the opportunity to see the show earlier this year and it is full of energy, talent, and inspiration.  Not only do the kids sing and dance well, they also inspire you with their respect and excellence in behavior and professionalism.

You may be aware that they took gold medal honors at the World Choir Games held in Shaoxing, China, in 2011 and returned in 2012 to the World Choir Games in Cincinnati and received gold medals in Popular Choral Music and Gospel categories.  They have performed the National Anthem for the Indianapolis Colts and performed with John Mellencamp and Stephen Stills at the opening celebration at Lucas Oil Stadium.  They have backed up other performers such as Roberta Flack, Josh Groban and two years ago appeared on our stage with Livingston Taylor, where they brought the house down in a big finale with Livingston’s hit Gospel song, “Step by Step!”

There’s no mistake that the heart and soul of this choir and the entire Unity Program is its leader, Marshall White.  White is a divinely inspired person whose heart is all about youth and making them successful in life through life-changing experiences.  The concert we present on April 26 at the Niswonger will be just one more step in that direction.  Marshall tells the kids, “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance.”  (I believe someone else made this statement many years ago.  We now have holidays that celebrate His birthday and His resurrection.)  We will have the opportunity to experience this talented group of youth on Saturday night at 7:30 on April 26.

We will also be unveiling our new 2014-15 Community Concert lineup.  It will be an exciting night once again at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.  Get your tickets now!

Happy Easter to all.  I trust you enjoy a good celebration at one of our local churches this Sunday as we celebrate in word and song that He is risen!

FINÉ.

POSTED: 04/16/14 at 6:18 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

As I have been working on the new season for the Niswonger, I have been engulfed by music of all kinds.  In addition to listening to everything from Broadway to Country to Adult Contemporary and Rock, I have also been doing a bit of music of my own.  This Saturday, the Lima Symphony Orchestra is performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  You know it- it’s the one with “Ode to Joy” in it.  I have been listening to recordings of it and now am in the midst of rehearsing it all week long.  If you want to talk about passion and inspiration, this Beethoven symphony has it all.

I know that many of you are quite familiar with the entire symphony, but most are just familiar with the “Ode to Joy” section which doesn’t even arrive until the fourth movement; and actually not until halfway through that!  Anyway, as I was listening to my recording, it really hit me as to the amount of passion that Beethoven wrote into his music.  It is common knowledge that Beethoven had lost most of his hearing by the time he had written his Ninth Symphony. This may have actually aided the passion and inspiration he was able to compose into his music.  I imagine he heard more music inside his head than he ever did with his ears.

We were fortunate two years ago to present the Fort Wayne Philharmonic with the chorus, including some of our local singers, along with soloists.  What an amazing experience it was to hear Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the Niswonger PAC!

If you are looking for an inspirational experience this Saturday night, I invite you to the Lima Civic Center to enjoy the Lima Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Beethoven’s magnificent Ninth Symphony.  The King’s Coronation by Handel is also programmed for Saturday night.  Of course, you all know the inspiration behind much of Handel’s music, which gives me the opportunity to announce that Handel’s Messiah will be performed this Christmas on December 14.  Mark your calendars.

The point of this entire column is not just to talk about Beethoven, although he is one of the most fiery and passionate composers of all time.  While driving to Lima this week, I was listening to some Country songs of singers we are looking at for next season at the Niswonger.  I was inspired by the lyrics of a particular song.  A good Country song can emit emotions when you add meaningful lyrics; something many of them do quite well.

On the other hand, the Van Wert High School theatre department is performing the musical, Foot Loose this weekend.  Performances are at 7 p.m. this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  The music of this show helps tell a story that I think you will enjoy.   The sets and staging are absolutely first-rate!  Come and see these talented and hard-working kids.

Since we are talking about inspiration, the Voices of Unity Youth Choir from Fort Wayne, Ind., will perform at the Niswonger on Saturday, April 26.  These youth from the Fort Wayne area are the epitome of inspiration.  Their vehicle of inspiration is music.  Many of these youth are inner-city youth and have found a refuge from life’s problems through the ministry Marshall White offers through his Unity program.  You must come and see how so many of these young boys and girls have made something good of their lives since becoming involved in this program.  It is truly amazing!   Check the box office for the few remaining seats for this show on April 26.

This is also a good time to give a shout out to James DeFore, a young man from Van Wert who is in both Footloose and Voices of Unity.  Way to go, James!

Enjoy music of all kinds and be inspired!

FINÉ.

POSTED: 04/09/14 at 5:10 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

Well, at least this Saturday it will be a jungle in the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert.  Starting at 3 p.m. this Saturday, Jungle Jack Hanna of the Columbus Zoo and television fame will be showing creatures of the wild from our Central Insurance Stage.  The show is sold out, and has been for some time.  So, if anyone has tickets available they are not using, you may want to ask a friend if they know someone looking for one.  These tickets are as hot as a baboon in … ahem!  Well, you get my drift.

Although I have never seen one of Jack Hanna’s “Into the Wild — Live” shows, I do know that he will bring all kinds of animals we normally only see in cages, at a zoo, or if you are ever lucky enough, in some exotic land of their natural habitat.  It should be an amazing show… and quite fun and entertaining.

After this mess is all cleaned up, we have just two remaining shows: Voices of Unity on Saturday, April 26 and Broadway’s West Side Story on Sunday, May 11. Voices of Unity is the Gold-medal winning youth choir from Fort Wayne, Ind. The group has been working to put together an exciting performance to share with us at the Niswonger. I have seen portions of what they are performing and I guarantee you it will light up the stage. All tickets are just $20 and are on sale right now in the box office.

Then, in another two weeks, our biggest show of the season finishes off the year: Broadway’s West Side Story!  Perhaps one of the biggest Broadway musicals of the 20th century, West Side Story is a love story with attractive characters, tremendously exciting dancing, and live music that all will recognize and love. Songs like “Maria”, “America”, “One Hand, One Heart”, “Tonight”, “I Feel Pretty” and “Mambo” will absolutely have everyone mesmerized.

We offer two performances of this Mother’s Day extravaganza on May 11.  We wanted to make it as convenient as possible for you to celebrate Mother’s Day as you should and then make it even more special by taking her to a Broadway musical right here in Van Wert.  Both the 2 and 7:30 p.m. shows are selling neck and neck.  As of today, we have nearly 1,500 tickets sold and growing.

I hope you can make Mother’s Day extra special and join us for West Side Story.  Like always, we will make your visit to the Niswonger a very special event.  Mom will be pleased!

It won’t be long before we get back to the outdoor concerts in Fountain Park.  You will soon be seeing some action down at the park as young student workers from Vantage Career Center will be laying a concrete drive from Jefferson Street to the amphitheater stage, easing load-in for all our performers and production people.  Thank you Vantage, thank you Larry Mengerink, thank you students, and thank you Sue Heppeard and the City Parks & Recreation Department.

The Van Wert Community Concert Band will break in the summer with a concert on May 23 and then our season begins on June 6 during Peony/ArtRageous weekend as Papa Doo Run Run turns the park into a California beach party.

Stay tuned for more exciting news!

FINÉ.

POSTED: 04/01/14 at 10:23 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

It seems the older I get, the younger I need to become!  Does this make sense?  Do you feel this way sometimes?  This seems to be true for many things in life.  When I was young, I wanted to be older. Now that I’m older, I want to be young again. Technology has just exploded in the past 20 years and especially over the past decade.  It can make one feel real old very quickly if you don’t keep up with it.

We in the performing arts grapple with this feeling too.  Trying to please a diverse audience is not an easy task.  The generation of the Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey Orchestras are feeling forgotten while the new generation is wanting the very latest.  Sadly, many young people do not even know who Glenn Miller was.  Then there are the generations between who grew up with the Hippie movement and on to the Rock music culture.  Where does one begin to please the diverse musical palates of everyone?  This is the challenge we struggle with each time we try to plan a season of concerts and events.

There is good music from the past that people still enjoy hearing.  Even though many performers are now past their prime, I believe some performers have earned the respect and people still enjoy seeing and hearing them.  I think it allows people the opportunity to revisit good times of their youth.  This is a valuable service we in the arts can offer.  There is no doubt whatsoever that music evokes memories and that it is healing at times.

I find that older people seem to be more receptive to newer music than young people are of older music.  I find this interesting and quite surprising!   Perhaps older people have more experience and have seen and learned much more over the years.

As I look for talent in Fountain Park during the summer, I look for music that I think most people can and might enjoy.  The idea behind outdoor summer music is to create an atmosphere where people can relax, visit and have fun.  We are not trying to educate or bring culture to the audience as much as entertain them … always with hopefully quality music though.

Inside at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, we look to entertain, educate and inspire.  Most often the performers are genuine and are performing their own music native to their performance style: Classical, country, jazz, rock, Broadway, Pop, and on and on.  Now the tricky thing is to please as many people as possible.  Not everyone will enjoy every concert; this much we understand.

We at the Niswonger talk much about audience development. I find it to be much like economic development. It is important to attract new, younger audience members, while still protecting and catering to audience retention. As we work on the 2014-15 Niswonger season, know that we work very hard to respect the past, while looking to the future. It’s not an easy task, but one that we embrace and work very hard to accomplish.

The new season will be announced within the next month or so.  We hope you find many things that will inspire, educate and entertain you. I also hope you, young and old alike, will give at least something a chance that may expand your musical palate.  You may just find that eating broccoli isn’t all that bad!

Up next: HMS Pinafore, a Gilbert & Sullivan musical comedy operetta, this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. This may be the vegetable you haven’t eaten in a while. I encourage you to try it and you might just enjoy it!

FINÉ.

POSTED: 03/25/14 at 10:33 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

The next two weekends offer two different types of stage productions, but both filled with comedy and music.  This Sunday, appropriately so, the Church Basement Ladies come to Van Wert again to present Church Basement Ladies: A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement.  These ladies of the church basement have been to the Niswonger before and always leave us in stitches; probably because so many of us can relate to them so well.

As I understand this latest version, the ladies of the Lutheran Church are going to marry one of their own girls to a Catholic boy.  The Lutheran ladies must go to the Catholic Church basement to give the reception.  Well … you can imagine what kind of shenanigans and situations might arise from this experience!

The popularity of these shows have required us to present two of them.  We are offering a 3 p.m. matinee and a 7:30 evening show.  The afternoon show is sold out, but if you really want to experience some good, wholesome laughter this Sunday, you can still get into the 7:30 p.m. show.

We follow the Church Basement Ladies with a hilarious look at the King’s Navy in Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. This production comes to us from the New York City-based Gilbert & Sullivan Players. Most of their productions are done at Symphony Space, located at Broadway and 95th in New York City; however, we are fortunate to have them bring this treasured comedic operetta on the road with the full production.

The Koch Orchestra Pit will be lowered and filled with a large orchestra and the Central Insurance Stage will be filled with singers, character actors, and beautiful scene drops, making this a huge production.

Many have commented that they performed HMS Pinafore and other Gilbert & Sullivan productions while in high school. The Gilbert & Sullivan productions are musically challenging because they take skilled singers to pull it off effectively.  We don’t see many high school productions anymore, which makes it even more enticing to see this professional production with skilled singers and actors, many of whom have been in Broadway and Opera productions in New York City.

We have just a week and a half before we draw names on April 1 for non-profit organizations wishing to serve food as a fundraiser with the Fountain Park Summer Music Series concerts.  Call (419.238.1743), email (paul@vanwertcountyfoundation.org), or stop by (138 E. Main St.) to provide us with contact information about your organization.

Brochures for the Fountain Park Summer Music Series are being prepared and should be available soon.  I will let you know when they are completed.  Think summer; and in the meantime, I hope to see you at the upcoming shows, ready to laugh and enjoy!

FINÉ.

POSTED: 03/18/14 at 8:56 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

In retrospection of this past Sunday’s concert at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center where local singers Jake Wilder and Mary Ann Falk sang the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein with the Toledo Symphony, I began to think of how this facility has affected local talent.  First, let me just say how very proud I was of Jake and Mary Ann!  And from the audience reaction, one could feel the love and admiration for their performance.  The symphony played well, the concert was programmed well, and Rodgers & Hammerstein composed well, but it was truly an afternoon for Jake and Mary Ann.

In thinking back over the years since our opening in 2007, many local performers have been highlighted.  Obviously the crème de la crème has most often been our professional concerts performed by professional musicians; however, we have also been honored to present opportunities to locals that have been quite memorable.

I think back on how we have been able to use some local talent to back up performers like Marie Osmond, The Four Lads, and Franc D’Ambrosio (Phantom of the Opera).  And our talent was just as good as what could have been brought in from outside.  I also think of the number of students who performed with the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldier’s Chorus, the Air Force Band of Flight, River City Brass Band, Dallas Brass, Rodney Mack and the Philadelphia Big Brass, Point of Grace … and even Elvis himself!

Then I think of the number of workshops and clinics that local students have benefitted from: Franc D’Ambrosio, Thomas Pandolfi, the American Spiritual Ensemble, Dallas Brass, Alpin Hong, Toledo Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker, and on and on.  I say on and on because we will continue to look for new ways to nurture local talent — and especially young student talent. As we look at next season, we see more great opportunities for local talent to be involved on stage.  I just have to believe that people feel like a million bucks performing on the Central Insurance Stage in the Niswonger.

When the Van Wert County Foundation began the position of performing arts coordinator, and even before the Niswonger was created, one of my goals in this position was to create special opportunities for young people to perform and learn.  The Foundation has always been a huge supporter of the youth in our area through scholarships and grants for meaningful projects.  We at The Foundation continue to nurture youths in many ways. I am blessed to be able to do it through the arts. The Niswonger Performing Arts Center has just amplified what we do in a very professional way.

Well, I hope you all saw the listing of concerts for the Fountain Park Summer Music Series. We are very excited to get outside and enjoy beautiful weather and good music. Don’t forget to contact our office with the name of your non-profit organization if you are interested in serving food at one of our Van Wert County Foundation-sponsored concerts in Fountain Park.  You have until April 1 to have your name included in the lottery.

Before we head outdoors, though, we have several exciting concerts and shows at the Niswonger.  Don’t miss out on any of these big shows coming up.  Check us out on Facebook and at our website: npacvw.org.  Lots of laughs and good music are in store for the next two months.

FINÉ.

POSTED: 03/11/14 at 8:50 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

This Sunday afternoon (3 p.m.), March 9, the Niswonger Performing Arts Center features two local singers sharing their talents with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.  Most of us have heard that an expert is someone from at least 50 miles away.  What we in the rural areas of the Midwest sometimes forget to consider is that we have some extremely talented people too!  This Sunday will prove my point.

When the Toledo Symphony called me last year with the idea of returning to the Niswonger to perform, we talked about several program options. Their Rodgers & Hammerstein program really appealed to me and our programming committee. Through conversation, I learned that they were presenting this show in Toledo at the Stranahan Theater this past fall and would be using vocalists to sing some of the wonderful songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Broadway musicals. When I heard this, I immediately thought about some very talented singers we have right here in Van Wert: namely tenor Jake Wilder and soprano Mary Ann Falk.

Wilder is a young man who attended Lincolnview Local Schools and graduated from Van Wert High School. Wilder, a naturally talented kid who performed in our Young Artist Recitals, as well as school and community programs, decided to further his music singing studies at Bowling Green State University.  While there, he made quite a name for himself throughout northwest Ohio and southern Michigan, singing in the Toledo and Detroit areas. He also won numerous vocal contests in an extremely competitive School of Music at BGSU.

He decided to return home for a while and work to earn money until deciding his next step in the music world.  Although Van Wert may not offer as many opportunities as many larger metropolitan areas, we have created many musical opportunities for him. He has been active singing and leading worship at First United Methodist Church on a regular basis and has also lent his voice and keyboard skills to other churches in the area. He has also been singing at the Black Swamp Bistro restaurant and now can be heard entertaining at Willow Bend Country Club. He has also been in great demand as a soloist for local and regional performances, and it was a no-brainer to ask Jake to sing with the Toledo Symphony.

Every good musical, and especially Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, must have a dashing tenor and a lovely soprano as well. It didn’t take long for me to think of a local soprano who could fit the bill and who knew theater music so well. The daughter of Arla Allen, Mary Ann Falk, came to my mind immediately. Inheriting a beautiful and powerful soprano voice from her mother, Mary Ann chose to become an educator and teaches English at Vantage Career Center. However, it is her singing that I and our community have been the fortunate recipients of.

Mary Ann also attended BGSU and sang in choirs while a student. I am sure she had some thrilling musical experiences and great instruction while in college, but she chose to make her vocation in education and make music an avocation.

She does as well at her avocation, as she does in her vocation.  Anyone who has been a regular attender of Van Wert Civic Theatre productions has probably heard Mary Ann sing, as well as see her acting ability. The best (musical) deal of my life occurred when I agreed to play for Mary Ann’s wedding several years ago in return for her singing in my church choir.  I always say it’s the gift that keeps giving and giving.

Mary Ann and her mother started singing in the choir at First U.M. in Van Wert and we have all been blessed many times over. It was also a no-brainer to ask Mary Ann to sing with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.

This Sunday, as part of the Community Concert Series at the Niswonger, these two local talents will share their voices on some of the loveliest music ever written for the theater stage and perhaps of all time.  I invite you to this Sunday afternoon concert at the PAC.  About 150 seats are available, so don’t delay.  A big audience will gather at 3 p.m. this Sunday to witness that Van Wert has super talent right here among us.

Before I go, allow me to remind non-profit organizations wishing to serve food at Fountain Park Summer Music Series concerts to get their information to me by March 31.  The lottery will be held April 1.  Yes, we will have a summer (I think?).

FINÉ.

POSTED: 03/05/14 at 6:29 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

It seems funny that we are just finishing up the month of February, yet there is so much going on.  We are looking forward to a fun concert with The Spinners this Saturday night at the Niswonger, and then two local talents as featured soloists with the Toledo Symphony singing the music of Rogers & Hammerstein the following week.

Then, it seems we are on the downward slope of entertainment, but still have nine more performances remaining this season.

While all this is going on, we are putting the finishing touches on a brand new season for 2014-15. We have our work cut out for us, because this season has been so phenomenal, but I enjoy a good challenge.

Meanwhile, the summer is quickly approaching and I am thinking about music in Fountain Park. The recent sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures that have flirted with our senses may have put some of you in the mood for some outside barbecue, lawn chairs, blankets, and fun music. Even with everything going on, I have certainly been thinking along those lines. As a matter of fact, our office will begin accepting names of non-profit organizations interested in being considered to serve food in Fountain Park for the concerts.  Email me at director@npacvw.org, call our office at 419.238.1743, or stop by at The Van Wert County Foundation to include your name in the April 1 lottery. Be sure to include the name of your organization (non-profits only), contact person, phone number and email address.  And remember: if you were chosen last year, you need to take one year off.

By the middle of next month (March), I hope to announce the complete 2014 Fountain Park Summer Music Series.  I hope to have some good and exciting surprises in this year’s line-up. Seven Van Wert County Foundation-sponsored concerts will be performed on Friday nights, starting June 6 through the beginning of August. Watch for that forthcoming announcement.

Just to let you know how Niswonger ticket sales are going, the Rogers & Hammerstein concert with the Toledo Symphony featuring soprano Mary Ann Falk and tenor Jake Wilder, is nearing a sellout, as is the afternoon performance of the Church Basement Ladies play on March 23. Jungle Jack Hanna is already sold out and tickets for the children’s show, Dinosaur Train-Live!, are going quickly. Call or check the box office for details. They are happy to assist you.

In the meantime, we’ll keep the plates spinning and hopefully continue the good work of providing good music and entertainment for the good people of Van Wert (and beyond).

POSTED: 02/26/14 at 7:32 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

The “Big O” may have different meanings to different people.  To me, the “Big O” makes me think of basketball legend Oscar Robertson.  But to most of our friends in the farming community and those who have listened to radio over the last 50 plus years, there is only one “Big O” and that is Orion Samuelson.

Orion Samuelson is that trusted, rich, baritone voice heard on the radio since 1960 over WGN in Chicago, providing the Midwest farmer with agricultural news and information.  Why- just saying that last phrase, one can almost hear his voice.  It is so recognizable.

Samuelson is without doubt the best-known agricultural broadcaster in the country.  Born on a dairy farm near La Crosse, Wis., Samuelson considered becoming a Lutheran pastor before deciding on six months of radio school instead.  Today, Samuelson is heard over a syndicate of 260 stations airing his “National Farm Report” daily and with “Samuelson Sez”, a weekly series allowing him to offer opinions and observations on the agricultural community.   Since 1975, he has produced and hosted U.S. Farm Report, a weekly television program seen on 190 Midwest stations.

Samuelson has been the recipient of countless awards and honors including the American Farm Bureau’s Distinguished Service Award in 1998; the Nation 4-H Alumni Award; and he is the only broadcaster in the nation to receive two Oscar’s in Agriculture- one each on radio and television.  He topped it all off by being inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2003.

Our Speaker and Lecture Committee felt it was important to bring such an illustrious person to our region because of our deep roots and importance of agriculture throughout our area.  I am sure whether you are a farmer or not, you will find the plethora of stories Samuelson can share to be most enlightening, informative and entertaining.

You can get tickets in advance or at the door Sunday for this 3 p.m. engagement.  What else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon?  Football is over, March Madness has yet to begin and baseball is just getting started down south.

On the heels of Samuelson will be a concert on March 1.  It feels good just to be able to say March!  Maybe it will finally start warming up outside.  Regardless of what the weather is outside, it will be “hot” in the Niswonger for this Saturday night concert when the legendary R&B recording artists, The Spinners come to Van Wert.  With songs like “I’ll Be Around,” Rubber Band Man,” “Then Came You,” and so much more, it’s guaranteed to be an exciting night.

This one could yet sell out, so don’t delay on getting tickets if you haven’t already.  Relive those great memories with the music of The Spinners.  You know how a song can take you back; well this concert will take you back over and over again!

FINÉ.

POSTED: 02/19/14 at 5:46 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert