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Final Bow: After decades with the Blue Band and State College Area Municipal Band, Ned Deihl to direct his last concert

by on April 30, 2018 3:24 PM

From the Penn State Blue Band to the State College Area Municipal Band, Dr. Ned Deihl has been a staple as a band director in Happy Valley since 1975.

After nearly six decades here of carrying out his passion for leading bands, first as an assistant, Deihl will be retiring this month after the municipal band’s Mother’s Day concert.

Deihl has been directing the municipal band for 22 years, since he retired from Penn State and the Blue Band in 1996. His interest in music began when he was in elementary school.

It all started in fifth grade with the tonette, a song flute, and then evolved to the clarinet, which is what he has mainly played ever since.

“I went to a very rural high school with a poor band program and sometimes no band,” Deihl says. “I often tried to conduct a band or a group myself. But I took private lessons in a nearby town, had some success in contests, and played in the All-Ohio Boys Band every summer at the state fair, so that was motivating.”

Deihl’s musical background shaped his career, making him work that much harder to make up for the opportunities his high school program lacked.

“I went from such a poor high school band experience to becoming a college band director,” Deihl says. “That’s pretty much all I’ve wanted to do … be a band director, even back in high school I was thinking about that.”

Deihl attended Miami University of Ohio in 1949 as a music education major before transferring to Indiana University, which had a renowned school of music.

Deihl then played in the U.S. Army band after being drafted and conducted both the choir and band. He also played in the U.S Army symphony as a temporary substitute.

“That was a really great experience; it was a great orchestra with outstanding musicians from Julliard, Eastman, and all the big music schools,” Deihl says.

Out of the Army, he got his master’s degree at the University of Michigan and played in the marching band there, despite being the only Army veteran and graduate student playing with the younger students.

His next feat would be bringing his passion and drive to State College, where he started at Penn State in 1961. He served as associate director of the Blue Band before stepping up as director after the sudden death of James Dunlop in 1975.

“I was very close with the band and the director … I was hoping to direct it someday; it didn’t come about how I would have thought, though,” Deihl says. “I was the temporary director, there was a national search to fill the position and I was fortunate enough to get the gig.”

Dunlop was a good friend and Deihl remembers vividly the day he got the news of his passing. At the time, Deihl was on leave, but it was still his job to write and chart the shows.

“There was the shock of his death and then the rush to get the band together, plan a show, and get them in uniform. There was an early game the first week of school,” Deihl recounts. “That was quite a panic and there was hardly any time to grieve for Jim.”

After securing the position, Deihl successfully directed the band for 21 years. He had pioneered the iconic Floating LIONS pregame show formation in the 1960s; the formation remains a pregame staple today.

The Floating LIONS is a set of moves and formations that allow the band to spell “LIONS” while playing.

“The pregame was very tame, so we tried to revamp the whole pregame entrance with all new music and new arrangements,” Deihl says, “I’m glad some of it is still intact, including the Floating LIONS.”

Some of Deihl’s favorite memories as the Blue Band director are getting to work with all the students and attending many bowl games during his career. He is especially fond of the distinct memory of Penn State winning two national championships in the 1980s and being able to march with the band back from the stadium to the hotel while the crowd was going crazy.

Deihl retired from Penn State in 1996, but his band directing days were far from over. The State College Municipal Band was looking for some change, and Deihl says directing it overlapped perfectly with his retirement.

The Municipal Band is about 42 years old and consists of 80 amateur and semi-professional band members; they play seven annual shows in the area. After years of directing the band, Deihl will be passing down the baton in May.

“I’m going to miss it,” Deihl says. “It really enlightened my retirement but with my age I think it’s probably time to turn it over to someone younger.”

Being accepted to play for the Association of Concert Bands convention was highlight for his career in the Municipal Band, as was getting to know and grow close with his bandmates.

“They are just in general, great people. Mostly amateur musicians, some professional-level players, but everyone takes it pretty seriously and we just try to have fun while we’re doing it,” Deihl says.

Deihl says he has enjoyed planning the programs, watching them develop and then seeing the final product and the audiences’ reactions.

“You can really get a high from some of the great music they’ve played exceptionally well,” Deihl says.

The Municipal Band’s Veterans Day concert is one of his favorites; it is great to see the vets’ faces light up, he says.

“One of the things the band does best is patriotic music,” Deihl says.

The Municipal Band is searching for a new director, and although his days of conducting are coming to an end, Deihl says he still intends to teach privately as well as play in the Keystone Society of Swing.

“I’ll miss the concerts, the appreciation of the audience, and the people. They’re some amazing musicians and I really enjoyed working with them,” Deihl says.

 

Ned Deihl will lead his final concert as director of the State College Area Municipal Band on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 13, at 3 p.m. in the Mount Nittany Middle School auditorium. For more information, visit the State College Area Municipal Band’s Facebook page.

 

 

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