Musical Hart: Indian Valley Community Band director to lead his last concert

SANDWICH – Richard “Dick” Hart of Sheridan lives by the motto “Music is life.”

Eighty-seven-year-old Hart has been playing the trombone for more than 75 years. He was the choral director for grades K-8 at Hinckley and Big Rock from 1956 to 1959, was the choral director at Downers Grove North High School for 29 years and was the owner of Hart’s Music Store in Sandwich from 1990 to 2004.

Hart joined the Indian Valley Community Band in the 1990s and directed concerts in 1997, 1999 and 2008.

When the band’s original director, Paul Rossok, stepped down in 2010, Hart volunteered to lead the band temporarily.

“It was supposed to be a temporary position, but I turned into a permanent interim conductor,” Hart said. “I love playing with the band and I love leading it. I just love music. Not a day goes by without music in my life.”

Hart has decided to retire from being the band’s director, but both Hart and his wife, Christel, plan to continue playing in the band. Christel Hart has been with the band for 15 years, first playing the clarinet, and now the bass drum.

Hart will lead the band one last time Sunday for IVCB’s 32nd annual spring concert. The performance at the Sandwich Opera House, 140 E. Railroad St. in Sandwich, will feature favorite pieces Hart has conducted in the past. He also will play the trombone and be joined by other trombonists Mark King of Montgomery, Paula Frosch of Sandwich and Jim Spring of Leland.

The band’s new director will be announced during the concert.

The concert is free, but donations will be accepted at the door to benefit the Sandwich Opera House. Past concert donations have helped Fox Valley Older Adults Services, Equine Dreams, the Sandwich Lions Club’s Franklin Mall Christmas Project and the Tri-County Kiwanis Club’s Fruit of the Room project.

A punch and cookie reception will be held after the concert, allowing the audience the opportunity to meet and socialize with the musicians and congratulate Hart on his retirement.

Sandra Black of Sandwich, one of the band’s charter members, said she has known Hart since he first joined the band.

“We’re a close-knit group, we’re all friends in the band,” Black said. “That’s what makes the band so special. We come to socialize, play our instruments and have fun. I’m 76 years old now, and I’m back playing my French horn after having open heart surgery. I’m going to stay in the band as long as I can see the sheet music and move my fingers to play my instrument.”

IVCB was founded in June 1986 when three Sandwich band directors – Joel Hawkinson, Terry Wickwire and Paul Rossok – placed a newspaper ad looking to start a band with members from the community. The band’s almost 40 members travel from more than 12 different towns to perform together.

In addition to the spring concert, the band also performs a Christmas concert at the Sandwich Opera House and a summer concert at James Knights Park in Sandwich.

The band does not have auditions – anyone high school-age or older who plays an instrument is welcome to join the band and play along. Members rehearse from 6 to 7:20 p.m. Mondays at Sandwich Middle School in Sandwich.

Alto saxophonist Donna Hutson of Sandwich and her sister, Carol Pruski, also joined the band when it first started in 1986.

“The band is easygoing, there’s no tryouts and it’s just a good group of people,” Hutson said. “We’re all going to miss Mr. Hart because he’s such a good director and a very nice man. We’re going to miss his leadership, but I’m glad that he’ll still be playing in the band.”

Flautist Deb Kell of Sandwich – a newer member of the band joining nine years ago – said she joined “just for the fun of it,” but has stuck with it because of the friendships she’s made.

“I’ve met so many people and made so many friends,” Kell said. “We have almost 40 members in the band. It’s not just people from Sandwich, not just young members, old members, professional players or beginners, it’s a mix of everybody. There are even three married couples in the band.”

Hart said he will miss leading the band but looks forward to continuing to play music together as a band – and as friends – in the future.

“I’m excited about the concert because it will be a reunion of sorts,” he said. “Former students of mine, friends, family, even my grandson from Denver will be coming to the concert. I’m looking forward to seeing all of those familiar faces and leading the band into sharing and performing music one last time.”

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