Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Meanings resonate at spirited band concert in Ashwaubenon

Critic At Large

AVB Community Band

Director Mike Ajango presents the AVB Community Band prior to the first concert of the season Monday night in Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center. (Warren Gerds)

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (WFRV) – Forty years.


Five hundred seventy-six days.

9/11 first responders.

Care givers.

A new name.

First performance in a new venue.

All those were bundled around a concert presented Monday night by the 69-member AVB Community Band at Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center.

At the core was music played with vigor and/or grace.

“Did you miss us?” director Mike Ajango asked the audience. The response was affirmative. “Well, we missed you, too.”

Ajango said it was 576 days, 82 weeks and 4 million-something seconds since the band’s previous concert.

In that time, the band went from being Allouez Village Band to AVB Community Band as connections to the village changed. The “AVB” now stands for “All Volunteer Band.”

Ajango acknowledged Robert Seering, who was prominent in the founding of the band at his kitchen table in Allouez in 1981. Thus, the reference to 40 years. Seering led the band for many years, with early concerts held in Brown County Central Library’s auditorium.

Along the way, Ajango asked who among the audience were newbies to one of the group’s concerts. A smattering. He then asked who was in Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center for the first time. More responded.

It was the band’s first concert in the hall. Four more are coming up there.

Ten selections were on Monday’s program. They had the umbrella title of “Champions All,” with Ajango noting everyone present is a champion for getting through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic through this stage.

Announcer Bruce Deadman added a subtext to many of the numbers. Along with providing background about the composer and the piece, Deadman called attention to how the music signified a mood befitting the recent 9/11 anniversary or a nod to the COVID-19 front line and essential workers.

Between what Ajango put together for the concert and what Deadman said – and how well the band played – this was a special concert for the band. It was more than an evening’s entertainment. Meanings were woven through.

To start “Forgotten Heroes,” associate director Paul Olesky made reference to “kind and generous people.”

Olesky also directed the first number, “Strike Up the Band,” which was delivered with zip and flourish. The band was more than ready.

Ajango remarked how well the band played along the way after smoothly leading either a musical lightning strike or comforting hand on a shoulder.

Ajango told the audience about the effort that goes into organizing and keeping such a band going (much less the time for practice and nurturing interest among the players), and he acknowledged people in the group who do the various necessary deeds.

The band played again. It didn’t quit because of a crummy time. It sounded really good. That says a whole lot.


Display. (Warren Gerds)


Season theme: “Rebirth! Renew! Rejoice”

Concert theme: “Champions All”

Part I

Band theme – Robert Seering

“Strike Up the Band” – George and Ira Gershwin, arranged by Warren Barker

“Commemoration Overture” – Robert Shelton

“Tribute” – Michael Kamen, arranged by John Moss

“Summon the Heroes” – John Williams, arranged by John Higgins

Opening Night on Broadway” – arrange by Michael Brown

   “Springtime for Hitler” from “The Producers”

   “Avenue Q Theme”

   “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from “Spamalot”

   “For Good” from “Wicked”

   “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King”

Part II

“Awakening Hills” – Richard Saucedo

“Call of the Champions” – John Williams, arranged by John Moss

“Forgotten Heroes” – Jeremy Bell

“Man of La Mancha” – Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh, arranged by Justin Williams

   “Man of La Mancha”

   “My Dulcinea”

   “Little Bird, Little Bird”

   “The Impossible Dream”

“March: Grandioso” – Roland Forrest Seitz, arranged by Andrew Glover

Traditional Finale

“God Bless America” – Irving Berlin

Band members

+ Flutes: Becky Fronek, Theresa Heggeland, Kathy Lieburn, Theresa Mergener, Shirley Paul, Lori Schilke

+ Oboe – Susan Arias, Emily Buffington

+ Bassoon – Mary Rehberg

+ Clarinet – Nancy Barthel, Marge Boulanger, Erica Errer, Linda Goerl, Kelli Ortscheid, Carol Osgood, Steve Waugus

+ Bass clarinet: Tammy Deppe, Debra Kinne, Diane Martin

+ Alto saxophone – Marcie Beshears, Gary Hassel, Sharon Hassel, Phil Stangel, Brad Terrell

+ Tenor saxophone – Dale Pearson, Kimberly Smithson, Dave Thaldorf

+ Baritone saxophone – Chuck Larscheid

+ Trumpet – Tim Bader, Gene Burmeister, Mike Cegelski, Bob Dietz, Jim Eckerle, Margaret Eckerle, Christopher Forbes, Brent Hussin, Tom Nachtway

+ French horn – Paul Hying, Mary Killian, Bill Klumb, Lisa Niermann, Pat Scasny, Jody Strnad, Sara Wanek, Caitlyn Wheeler

+ Trombone – Joe Cataldo, Linda Kelley, Becky Paul, Ken Petersen, Rachel Rabas, Bob Wampler, Steve Wilda, Joe Wingerter

+ Baritone – Janet Ajango, Bruce Deadman, Mary Nickel, Dick Nocenti, Jay Snow

+ Valve trombone – Hank Wallace

+ Tuba – Keegan Andersen, Mark Schroeder, Doug Youra

+ Bass trombone – Jerry Chenot

+ Percussion – Thomas Killian, Ted Ludolph, Paul Oleksy, Angela Stiles, Carmen Youra

+ Director – Mike Ajango

+ Manager – Brent Hussin

+ Announcer – Bruce Deadman


Rest of schedule

– Monday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m.: “Of Dreams and Nightmares” – Ashwaubenon PAC.

– Monday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m.: “United We Stand” – Meyer Theatre, Green Bay.

– Monday, Dec. 20, 7 p.m.: “Christmas with our Friends: A Weidner Wonderland” – Weidner Center, Green Bay.

– Sunday, Feb. 13, 2 p.m.: “Big Band Bash” – Riverside Ballroom, Green Bay.

– Monday, March 21, 7 p.m.: “Highlights and Lowlands” – Ashwaubenon PAC.

– Tuesday, April 19, 7 p.m.: “Oldies but Goodies” – Ashwaubenon PAC. This is a Tuesday concert.

– Monday, May 16, 7 p.m.: “You’ve Got to be Kidding” – Ashwaubenon PAC.



THE VENUE: Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center is located at 2391 S. Ridge Road in the northwest sector of the Ashwaubenon High School campus at the corner of Willard Drive and South Ridge Road. The look of the hall is that of a community/school district making a statement: The performing arts count. The facility’s design is by Bray Associates Architects, Inc. of Milwaukee and Sheboygan. The theater includes a theatrical slope. The basic floor is gray with patterned grays in the carpeting. The 700 seats have tan plastic backs, muted green fabric seat cushions and oak arms. Key elements are wood panels on walls and curved acoustical clouds in the ceiling for sound purposes. The basic stage is 26 feet high and 49 feet wide, with a section that bows out almost 18 feet being a covered (or uncovered) orchestra pit. The stage curtain is different from the standard rich red; it is rich green. The lobby – lighted by a series of white, circular fixtures, curves around the rear entrances of the theater. The space includes chest-high tables and ticketing, concession and coatroom areas. The facility was completed in 2016.

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