Ashland's City Band at Lithia Park

There's something about a city band that takes you back to simpler, cheerier days — and the Ashland City Band has it.

Tooting, thumping and playing John Philip Sousa marches, Dixieland jazz and Broadway tunes for 80-some years, the band opens its run of nine summer concerts Thursday, June 21, at the Butler Band Shell in Ashland's Lithia Park.

Bring a blanket, a picnic supper and friends and stretch out for a charming, if not unforgettable, evening of music.

The shows start at 6:15 p.m., with short concerts by such groups as the Dixieland Band (June 21 and Aug. 9), Dixie Connection (June 28 and Aug. 2), Rogue Valley Trombones (July 5), Southern Oregon University's Faculty Brass (July 12), Swing Kings, led by Harry Kannasto (July 26), and the Mazama Saxophone Quartet, led by Rhett Bender of SOU (Aug. 16). Gwen Hutchings of SOU will perform Artie Shaw's Concerto for Clarinet Aug. 9.

The 74-member City Band comes on at 7 p.m., performing "tried-and-true swing tunes, show hits and original, orchestral compositions," says bandleader Don Bieghler.

"We've always had a good reaction," Bieghler says. "People like our music and our soloists."

Sometimes the band incorporates other ensembles into its performances, such as the Rogue Valley Alphorns July 19 and Bender's sax quartet Aug. 16.

The City Band stages performances that are notable for being largely local events, with both players and audiences hailing from the valley, Bieghler says.

"With a few tourists sent by motels and bed-and-breakfasts," he says. "It's one of those unique Ashland events that's existed since the mid-1930s. It represents that traditional, old-fashioned band concert in the park with a variety of music, coming from a peaceful, uncomplicated time like you see in turn-of-the-century 'The Music Man.' "

The Ashland band's history dates to the 1880s, when a small band combined with the Elks Band and the group played for social events, parades and train arrivals of dignitaries, Bieghler says. The City Band, financed by the City of Ashland, tries to carry on that kind of spirit and atmosphere.

"Back then," Bieghler says, "it was the town's entertainment."

The City Band's concerts in Lithia Park are free.

Call 541-245-9494 for more information.

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