GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – It’s special for AVB Community Band to play in The Weidner’s main hall once a year. Monday night’s concert had special moments among the special.

The program contained selections that showed the band’s range – big vigor to smoothly flowing tenderness – played well and filling Cofrin Family Hall with luster.

The hall was filled near capacity on its orchestra level.

“Wow! What a crowd!” host Bruce Deadman observed. “Give yourself a round.”

Not long ago, such a gathering was impossible due to the pandemic.

Paul Oleksy, who steps in to direct for a few numbers in each concert, has a way with reflective words. His opportunity Monday included thoughts of this nature: Slow down and look carefully at the beauty and good fortune that we all share.

That was Monday’s aura.

Prior to intermission, director Mike Ajango encouraged concertgoers to introduce themselves to folks in the next seat and wish them Merry Christmas. And a healthy number did.

Mike Ajango also was overtaken by a performance. As the band oh so gently lay the foundation for an arrangement of “Silent Night” called “All is Calm,” soprano Amelia Gibbons caressed notes of color and comfort. At the end, Mike Ajango paused on the podium, holding his heart and glancing downward. He then stepped down and embraced Amelia Gibbons. “I need a moment,” he told the audience. “Every once in a while, you get a special moment. That was one.”

Amelia Gibbons is a senior at Green Bay Southwest High School. Monday, she shared the stage with Brandon Rockstroh, director of choirs at Southwest. Brandon Rockstroh also had a moment with his rich, deep baritone glowing in “O Holy Night.” The voices of the two suit the hall, built to showcase such beauty.

There was fun, too, on Monday night – the playful comments of Bruce Deadman and a visit by a Santa, “direct from New Orleans,” complete with a bit of a drawl.

It all said what the concert’s theme set out to achieve: “We Believe in Glad Tidings.”



Director: Mike Ajango, except Paul Oleksy where noted**

Part I

+ “A Christmas Celebration” – Kenny Bierschenk

+ “Christmas on Broadway” – arranged by John Higgins

   Brandon Rockstroh and Amelia Gibbons, vocalists

+ “Away in a Manger” – William Kirkpatrick, arranged by Mack Wilberg

+ “Ukrainian Bell Carol” – arranged by Richard Saucedo

+ “O Holy Night” – Adolphe Adam, arranged by David Lovrien

   Brandon Rockstroh, vocalist

+ “Stars and Stripes for Christmas”** – John Philip Sousa, arranged by Robert E. Foster

Part II

+ “Patapan” – arranged by Tom Wallace

   Featuring the AVB Percussion Ensemble

+ “I Wish You Christmas” – John Rutter, arranged by Paul Noble

   Brandon Rockstroh and Amelia Gibbons, vocalists

+ “Midnight Sleighride”** – Sergei Prokofiev, arranged by Tom Wallace

+ “All is Calm” – arranged by Robert W. Smith

+ “Santa Claus Comes to Dixieland” – Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman, arranged by J. Fred Coots

+ “Ode to Greensleeves” – arranged by Richard Saucedo

+ “A Holiday Sing-Along” (“Deck the Hall,” “Jingle Bells,” “O Christmas Tree,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” – arranged by John Moss.

   Mike Ajango Brandon Rockstroh and Amelia Gibbons, vocalists


Band members

+ + Flutes – Becky Fronek, Theresa Heggeland, Chris Kelley, Kathy Lieburn, Theresa Mergener, Shirley Paul, Lori Schilke

+ + Oboe – Susan Arias, Emily Buffington

+ + Bassoon – Liz Rehberg, Mary Rehberg

+ + Clarinet – Chris Andersen, Nancy Barthel, Marge Boulanger, Erica Errer, Linda Goerl, Kathy Myrick, Kellie Ortscheid, Carol Osgood, Barb Varney, Steve Waugus

+ + Bass clarinet – Tammy Deppe, Debra Kinne, Mark Schroeder

+ + Alto saxophone – Kellie Beno, Gary Hassel, Marcie Schoen, Cindy Swain, Brenda Winkler

+ + Baritone saxophone – Chuck Larscheid

+ + Tenor saxophone – Kimberly Smithson, Dave Thaldorf

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

+ + French horn – Barbara Fondow, Mary Halloin, Paul Hying, Carolyn Johnson, Mary Killian, Bill Klumb, Pat Scasny, Jodi Strnad, Sara Wanek, Caitlyn Wheeler

+ + Trombone – Adam Budzinski, Linda Kelley, Erin Mader, Dick Nocenti, Rachel Rabas, Samantha Verhagen, Bob Wampler, Joe Wingerter

+ + Baritone – Janet Ajango, Bruce Deadman, Joe McCabe, Mary Nickel, Jay Snow

+ + Valve trombone – Hank Wallace

+ + Tuba – Keegan Andersen, Michael Draney, Russ Nau, Doug Youra

+ + Bass trombone – Jerry Chenot

++ Bass – Jerry Kruse

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

+ + Director – Mike Ajango

++ Associate director – Paul Oleksy

+ + Manager – Brent Hussin

+ + Announcer – Bruce Deadman


NEXT: “We Believe in Good Times,” Feb. 19, Riverside Ballroom, Green Bay.

THE VENUE: Cofrin Family Hall is one of three performance spaces within The Weidner, a.k.a. Edward W. Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. At its maximum capacity setup, the hall seats 2,021 over its three levels of maple-and-burgundy seats. Opened Jan. 15, 1993, the hall was built to adapt to the needs of orchestra concerts, operas, musicals, plays and organ, band and choral concerts. For acoustical properties, wood is emphasized on the seats, mezzanine and balcony surfaces and walls near the stage. Many surfaces are curved to help shape the sound. Wood is featured for an aesthetic reason, too – a “from here” aura of woodsy Northeastern Wisconsin.

THE PEOPLE: The name Cofrin relates in great degree to A.E. Cofrin, founder of Fort Howard Paper Co., and his son, Dr. David A. Cofrin, who was instrumental in building the Weidner Center through multi-million-dollar donations. A friendship developed between David A. Cofrin (1921-2009) and Edward W. Weidner (1921-2007), the beloved founding chancellor of UWGB. Weidner spoke slowly and carried a big idea. Weidner arrived when there were no buildings on the present-day campus on rolling hills near the shore of Green Bay. His interests ranged from academia to birding to sports. He loved building projects. It was in his blood. He guided the building of the Weidner Center, so named from early on in construction. Weidner admitted his eyes welled once when driving to a performance and seeing a green sign along the highway: WEIDNER CENTER.