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The History of Port Townsend Summer Band

by Stephen R. Ricketts
Band Historian

The call went out, "Strike up the Band"!  Our first concert was in July 1993.  The core of the band has been musicians from the Port Townsend Community Orchestra who play band instruments.  Others have come from the extended community.  Musicians from as far away as Port Angeles have come to play; and they have been of all ages and skills, from school bands to professionals.  While the number of musicians varies, we are all volunteers and we have recently had up to 39 crowded onto the bandstand.

Rehearsals are held at the Port Townsend Community Center, moving over the years from the basketball court, to the basement, and finally to the main upstairs room.  The founder, E.J. Gaede, wielded the baton and borrowed music from the local high schools.  Some of our first sounds were "interesting," not necessarily because of our musicianship, but from the tremendous echo in the rooms where we rehearsed.

Port Townsend Summer Band play Chetzemoka Park

"We intended to thank you earlier in the summer for the wonderful concert you gave at Fort Worden on the 4th of July.  I think it was the best we've ever heard the band perform, and we try to attend most of your concerts.  Thank you for a great season, and for adding so much to our community."  

from "Hudson Place and Seattle" 

From the beginning we gave free monthly concerts during the summer at the Chetzemoka Park Gazebo in Port Townsend.  We have considered ourselves a community band and have tried to play at various community events, including Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Veterans Day ceremonies, the County Fair, the Port Townsend Presbyterian Church Centennial, the Port Townsend Uptown Craft Fair, and the 4th of July Independence Day celebration at Fort Worden.

The goal of the band has been to perform concerts in the park reminiscent of those that were popular from the late 1800's through the 1950's.  The band plays a mixture of concert pieces and marches.  We found that if you play music, an audience will come.  At first it was mostly friends and family of band members, but the following has grown.

In our 1995 season, we approached the Port Townsend Rotary Club about the possibility of sponsoring the band.  They agreed and, starting that season, the band sported green t-shirts with "Port Townsend Summer Band" on the front and a hot pink "Strike up the Band" in back.  We also provided programs courtesy of Printery Communications.  Both the Rotary Club and Printery have been consistent in their support of the band.

July 2000 brought organization.  A vote by the band membership installed a board.  For the first time we also asked for donations from the audience, passed a hat, and were amazed and impressed by the community support. 

Our concerts have included David Speck as Master of Ceremonies.  Over the summer he encourages and cajoles the audience to come forward and drop some of the contents of their wallets into the convenient containers provided.  He also provides very entertaining histories of the music being played.

We have some very talented people in the band.  In June of 2001 Karl Bach conducted the world-premier of his composition, the Port Townsend March.  A year later, in June 2002, the concert highlighted the Fort Worden Centennial March, written and directed by Karl for the Fort Worden Centennial.  The Port Townsend Community Orchestra had previously played it once.  In July the concert included another piece written by Karl, the Navy Bugler's Band Call March.

Port Townsend Summer Band

Photo of Port Townsend Summer Band Members, 2011

The August 2002 concert featured three world-premier performances.  During the June concert, drummers Ben Krabill and Bob Rutenbeck, the youngest (13) and oldest (mid 80's) band members, were joking that Karl should write a march for them.  So, he did!  Karl named it "March for Ben and Bob," and it included a solo on the snare drum by Ben, his student.  Karl also wrote a piece, "Portland '84 March," for band and bagpipe, as he was very impressed with a performance he heard in 1984 by the Royal Marine Band and the Argyll and Southerland Highlanders Pipes and Drums.  The third premier performance of the concert was a stirring arrangement of "Tosca Pa Rodina" by Stefan Puchalski, the band's euphonium player. 

Though the music may be grand, there are visual treats as well.  Chetzemoka Park provides a spectacular vista of the Admiralty Inlet of Puget Sound.  The view is of blue skies, islands, and saltwater, with occasional sightings of bald eagles and passing ships.  At one concert, as we played, the audience had a striking view of the tall ship, Lady Washington, arriving in Port Townsend under sail.

We hope you come visit us on a summer Sunday afternoon.  

Bring a blanket and a picnic. 

Check our schedule for performances. 
Strike up the Band!

Miles Vokurka
Conductor Miles Vokurka



Veterans Day Concert 2014, Port Townsend, WA

Veterans Day Concert 2014,
American Legion Hall, Port Townsend, WA

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