In 1985, several events occurred in Licking County which provided the right circumstances for the formation of a community band. The adult bands that had been in the area were no longer playing, the right number of good players on the right instruments were present, and J M Day and Don Workman finally sent out a letter inviting those musicians to meet and play some of their favorite music. J M Day and Don Workman were band directors in the Newark City Schools. They met for lunch once a week and, among other things, discussed music, musicians, and how much fun it would be to be able to again perform quality band literature. A letter was written New Year’s Day, 1985, inviting twenty-five musicians to a rehearsal on January 21st in the Newark High School Band room. Although not yet so named, the Heisey Wind Ensemble was born.
Why Heisey? Aside from the earthworks built by the Hopewell tribe circa 100 BC, Newark is best noted for the high quality glassware produced by the Heisey Glassworks from 1895 to 1957. Since the name Heisey represented quality in the area and the goal of the new organization was quality performance on quality music, the Heisey Wind Ensemble seemed an appropriate name.
On June 10th, the Heisey Wind Ensemble performed its first concert at Founders’ Hall on the OSU-Newark campus featuring compositions by Goldman, Strauss, Copland, Bernstein and Fillmore. Twenty-five musicians filled the stage, and ten of those are still performing with the ensemble. Two original members are deceased, J M Day (1927-2003) and George Hunter (1924-2001).
George Hunter was a member of the music faculty at Denison University and director of the Denison Concert Band for 32 years. One year after his retirement, concert band was no longer offered at Denison, and George made arrangements for the Heisey Wind Ensemble to rehearse and perform there. It was a collaboration that served both organizations well for 23 years. Heisey had the use of rehearsal and performance facilities, instruments, and George’s excellent band library, and Denison once again had a wind ensemble that would challenge its best students. We are proud of the fact that over 100 Denison students have chosen to be members of the Heisey Wind Ensemble since 1986, the majority of them having played with us for four years. With our relocation to OSU-N, we will continue to provide performance opportunities to both Denison and OSU-N/COTC students.
In twenty-four years, the Heisey Wind Ensemble has grown in membership and in the quality of its performances. Our season has increased from two concerts per year to at least four, the number of performers on stage has increased from 25 to 55, and we have been able to introduce our audiences to soloists of international renown.
HWE was asked to perform for the first July 3rd celebration at the OSUN/COTC Reese Amphitheater and continues to perform for this event. The group has been selected twice, in 2001 and 2004, to perform at the Ohio Music Educators’ Association Professional Conference. This honor is earned by an audition procedure, and we were proud to represent Denison University and the Central Ohio area. We have performed twice for the Ohio Chapter of the American School Band Directors’ Association, as well. At the first performance, we were described by James Swearingen as “Central Ohio’s best kept secret”.
The Heisey Wind Ensemble has been fortunate to have had the musical leadership of four outstanding conductors: Richard Lon Cass, Robert Neumann, Richard Blatti, and Russel Mikkelson. Their leadership has enabled the group to continue to grow, develop, and achieve musical performances that sometimes surprised even the players themselves. (Please see information about each conductor elsewhere on our website.)
So to Mr. Day and Mr. Workman, thanks for having lunch all those times and for putting your ideas into action. You have made Licking County a much better place to live.
Our First Concert
The HWE gave their premiere concert on June 10, 1985 at Founders Hall on the campus of OSU-Newark (click here to view the original newspaper article). Under the direction of Lon Cass, the 24 member ensemble performed the following selections:
On The Mall
Variations On A Shaker Melody
Irish Tune from County Dairy
The Circus Bee
Blue Bells of Scotland (Doug Moran, soloist)
Overture to Candide
Man of La Mancha
America, The Beautiful
Of the original 24 members, 10 are still performing with the group as we enter our “Silver Anniversary” season. Congratulations and Thank You to:
Lee Ensminger, Tom Evans, Ruth Isenhart, William Isenhart, John Krumm, Randall Lamb, Doug Moran, Tim Wallick, David Wolford, and Don Workman. Of special “noteworthy” recognition is the fact that Don Workman has performed on ALL of the concerts performed by the HWE since that premiere in 1985.
Our First Conductors
Richard Lon Cass, Music Director 1985 – 1995
Lon Cass was a founding member of the Heisey Wind Ensemble and the first Conductor and Music Director of the group. Under his leadership, the HWE grew from the initial 25 members to over 40 members, the Denison residency established and campus concerts moved from Burke Recital Hall to Swasey as audiences grew.
Mr. Cass has studied music at Capital University, The Ohio State University and Vandercook College of Music and studied conducting with Wilbur Crist, Peter Tkach and Dr. William Revelli. He is a member of the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA). Mr. Cass retired from teaching instrumental and vocal music at Fisher Catholic High School in Lancaster.
Robert Neumann, Assistant Conductor 1985 – 2001
Robert Neumann is a founding member of the Heisey Wind Ensemble, member of the trumpet section, and served as the assistant conductor. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College – Conservatory of Music and received his Master’s Degree from The Ohio State University. He retired from public school teaching in 1983, having taught in the Richmond Dale (Ross County), Washington Court House, Zanesville and Newark school systems.
Mr. Neumann served as Solo/Ensemble/Band Adjudicator for OMEA for many years and continues to adjudicate marching band contests. He was influential in contributing to the popularity of marching band contests by originating one of the earliest contests at Zanesville High School (1963) and Newark High School (1974). These events continue to this day. Mr. Neumann is a member of A.S.B.D.A. and the Phi Beta Mu international Band Master’s Fraternity.