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Andrew Preston was director of the Fike High School band half a century ago.
The 83-year-old commands attention from the conductor’s podium.
Preston, who was band director from 1964 to 1970, will be leading portions of a 60th anniversary concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the school auditorium.
About 75 band members from past and present will join together for the concert.
“We’ve got about 20 alumni that are expected to play on the concert, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for anyone who was involved throughout the history of Fike band to come out and reminisce and enjoy old times,” said Sarah Fenske, who is current director for the band.
Preston said he was looking forward to seeing a lot of the old students and looking forward to being able to work with the group and the alumni who are returning.
“It is real exciting for me,” Preston said before working with the band during a rehearsal Monday. “It is very gratifying.”
Other early Fike band directors included Ray Babelay, Cleveland Flowe, Don Griffin and Tim Collingwood.
Preston said the band historically didn’t get much preparation in the fall because of having to follow the football team around the state for conference games.
“We still had Christmas concerts and the spring concert,” Preston said. “In the spring was really when the concert band really took hold.”
Preston said it was inspiring to see the amount of growth that the young instrumentalists made in a year’s time.
“The band is playing well,” Preston said. “The band could do better, and they will do better because we’ve got another three or four rehearsals to go.”
Fenske said it is a little bit challenging bringing together so many musicians on the stage at one time.
“It’s an ambitious undertaking, but my students have done incredibly well with all of the challenges I have been throwing at them,” Fenske said.
A committee of band boosters and the band director picked songs from different eras to include in the program.
Preston will be conducting at least one melody, “The Blue and the Gray,” that he worked through with students when he was at Fike all those years ago. He will also be leading the band in at least one John Philip Sousa march.
“We’ve got a lot of the standard literature,” Preston said. “I’m looking forward to the variety that we have.”
“It’s a huge variety of music for people of all ages,” Fenske said. “In fact, we have got one song from ‘Man of La Mancha.’ It’s a 1960s musical, but the kids today love it even though it’s older music with older sounds. They absolutely adore it. It’s a lot of fun to play. We’ve gotten the chance to experience a lot of these older songs that are classics and still wonderful today.”
Preston said the concert is not just for former band members.
“I would encourage anyone to come, not just the alumni, but we are looking forward to seeing many of the older band members who have been in this organization,” Preston said. “I know I would like seeing them. I am hoping we will have a good many of them.”
Brigham Jensen, a senior trombonist, said it’s an amazing experience when all of the players come together.
“I have had experiences like that at all-state band,” Brigham said. “It’s super fun and you feel a sense of unity with the band, and I feel like even our friendship gets stronger through that music.”
Brigham said it is a privilege playing alongside all of the other veteran musicians and the experience is positive for the younger players.
“It helps them,” Brigham said. “They can see the product of hard work and discipline and hopefully set some goals for themselves to become like that or even better if they would like.”
Preston is confident members of the general public will appreciate the concert.
“For someone else who just loves good music, I think they will enjoy this program a whole lot,” Preston said.
Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. Advance tickets may be purchased at Hilton’s, Brewmasters, Italian Pizza and Subs, the Wilson YMCA, Omega Sports and Fat Cat Music.