Music often is the prime companion of historic events. In Evansville, from the dedications of the Roberts Stadium renovation in 1990 to the Korean War Veterans Memorial unveiling in 1992, the Evansville Symphonic Band has provided music to commemorate the city’s legacy moments since July 1947.
Entering its 75th season, the band — led by conductor and music director Kim Fillingim — will have celebratory performances at 7 p.m. each Sunday in June 2022 at the Central High School auditorium. One of the shows will feature the debut of “Diamond Jubilee” by composer James Barnes, a piece commissioned by the band specially for the anniversary.
“What we try to do is be a true community organization,” says Fillingim, who joined the band in 1970 as a trombone player. “Our mission is to provide free concerts for the Tri-State that are of high-level band music. I want the audience to want to come back to the next concert, and I want the band to be glad they played that concert.”
Founded by Wesley Shepard just after World War II as the Tri-State Concert Band, the group consists of paid professional musicians who give free concerts mainly at Central High School. While Fillingim conducted from 1998 to 2007 and returned to the position in 2014, the band has been fronted by several prominent local music figures.
Other directors include Harry Hart, Jim Bennett, Ed Lacy, James Chandler (who changed the name in the early 1980s), John K. Koehler, and Timothy Zifer. A former WIKY news director for more than 30 years, Randy Wheeler has been the band’s MC for more than 20 years. Each director left his mark on the bands’ performances and venues, holding shows for different periods at the University of Evansville (then Evansville College), Mesker Park Amphitheater, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Coliseum, and several Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation high schools.
“The thing that makes it great are the players, and I know that sounds kind of cliche, but it really isn’t,” says Fillingim. “It’s a really humbling experience to be in front of the group.”