SOUTH COVENTRY >> From 1961 to 1968, Richard Wells, an Owen J. Roberts High School alumnus, was the band director for his alma mater.
Then he was named associate professor of the music department at Kutztown University and, in 1997, after 29 years of teaching, he retired and was named professor emeritus.
This Saturday, both of Wells’ alma maters will join together into on giant band to close the 47th Annual Owen J. Roberts Cavalcade of Bands with a performance of “America the Beautiful.”
And Wells will be there to lead them.
The cavalcade begins at 5:55 p.m. in Wildcat Stadium on the campus of Owen J. Roberts High School.
Kutztown, like OJR, is a large ensemble with a great band tradition. The audience can look forward to a spectacular performance composed of winds, brass, percussion, and color guard members who bring with them a wide variety of talents and experiences, according to Todd Mengel, the current OJR band director.
“The idea is to make this a very special night for Mr. Wells and honor him for his service to both schools,” Mengel wrote in an email. “We will also be presenting Mr. Wells with a plaque and doing a dedication to him that night.”
Wells is credited with establishing the jazz studies program at KU and he continues to direct the alumni jazz ensembles.
The large ensemble rehearsal space at Kutztown University was named for Wells in 2013 as part of a $20 million renovation and expansion of Schaeffer Auditorium. KU alumni, students, faculty and staff raised more than $500,000 to honor Wells with the naming rights.
At the cavalcade show, Owen J. Roberts and Kutztown University will honor Wells’ 36 years as a music educator.
“He has influenced scores of students to aspire to excellence in music performance,” wrote Mengel. “A resident of the Owen J. Roberts School District, Mr. Wells remains loyal to the ideals and benefits of music and education and may be seen at both high school and college events.”
The 2017 Cavalcade of Music event will operate as a “showcase” event rather than a competition. Owen J. Roberts Marching Band has recently become a member of the Lancaster County Marching Band Coalition which gives high school bands adjudicated (judged) opportunities to receive professional feedback rather than rankings or numerical scores.
Part of the energy of the event comes from the fact that all spectators, including students from other performing bands, are seated on the home sideline, so that everyone can listen, observe, and enjoy the performances as they were intended — from the front. This method of engagement allows performers the ability to relax and have fun while providing a peer learning opportunity for student spectators.
In lieu of an awards ceremony, the audience can be prepared for a super, grand finale of music and visual energy.
Founded in 1934, the Kutztown University Marching Unit is comprised of 150 students under the direction of Professor Dan Neuenschwander.
The marching unit is open to any KU student, regardless of their field of study.
The event is open to the public and tickets are available at the gate. Ticket prices are $10/adult, $8/senior and $5/students (grades kindergarten through college.)
Concession stands will offer food and drinks for purchase. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the first band will perform at 6 p.m. A list of performing bands is available at ojrbandmpo.com.