Frederick Schmidt is the new conductor for the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band. - Photo by Julia Moore

RV Symphonic Band names new director

The thing about the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band's Oct. 31 concert that Fred Schmidt wants people to understand is that it's not really a Halloween concert.

"I don't want to call it that," the band's new music director says. "But because it's Halloween we're doing (New York Pops Conductor) Steven Reineke's 'The Witch and the Saint.' It's not comical or cartoonish. It's a very moving piece."

The concert will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Bethel Church, 4245 Vista Pointe Drive, Medford.

Schmidt was named conductor of the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band in June after retiring from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisc., where he conducted and taught woodwinds and conducting for 29 years.

He and his wife moved to the Rogue Valley in part to be near their daughter just when the 50-member, all-volunteer band was seeking a new director.

"It was serendipity," he says.

One of the first things he did was approach noted saxophonist Rhett Bender, who teaches at Southern Oregon University and is married to Schmidts' daughter, Jody, who also is a musician.

"I want a guest for the concert," Schmidt said. "Let's upgrade."

Which is how it came to be that Bender will perform on soprano sax as a guest with the band in the show. Schmidt believes that performance will be the world premiere of composer Dan Maske's "Far Corner" with a band accompaniment. He describes the piece as adult contemporary with a slight jazz touch and lots of rhythmic complexity.

Bender also will play a medley of tunes from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," including "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," "Summertime" and "It Ain't Necessarily So."

Schmidt describes "The Witch and the Saint" as a bit disturbing in parts and haunting in the end. He says the program will include two marches, which he calls "standard band stuff," and a couple of slower pieces, including "Danny Boy" and "Song of Peace," by Ian Polster, a friend of Schmidt's.

The Rogue Valley Symphonic Band is a relative newcomer to the music community of Southern Oregon, dating back to just 1988. It's performed more than 100 concerts around the valley and the state since then.

At the close of the Ashland City Band's final concert of 1987, so the story goes, clarinetist Pat Collins said to fellow band member Frank Brugman, "It's too bad we don't have a band to play in the rest of the year." That was the spark that prompted Brugman to round up some musicians, and a new band was born.

Schmidt says the band wants to build an audience around Southern Oregon. At least three major concerts are planned, and smaller groups of musicians from the band will do special shows at places such as the Rogue Valley Manor in Medford and the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City.

Schmidt started playing clarinet in the fifth grade, earned a doctorate from Ohio State University and taught music in Ohio public schools for 10 years. He can be heard playing principal clarinet on two CDs with the American Promenade Orchestra on the Klavier Records International label.

Tickets cost $8, $5 for seniors and students and $16 for a family. Call 541-488-2926.

Share This Story