In October 1984, Marshall Dahneke, a retired music teacher, moved to The Villages. After 34 years of teaching high school and college music, he desired to remain active. He ran an “ad” in The Villager in January 1985 inviting musically talented residents to meet with him to form a Villages Orchestra.
Eight musicians gathered on February 8th, 1985 in the Cribari Conference Room and decided to form an orchestra. They borrowed music and began, although with some apprehension. Charter members were: Peggy Osborne and Marian Pease, violins; Fredone Jones, piano; Constance Untch, cello; Alice Brown and Pete Clements, saxophones; Henry Pilch, trumpet and Martha Rudy, flute.
In May 1985, the new 13-member orchestra presented their first concert to a retired teachers association. Later that year, in December, the now 35-member orchestra played two Christmas dinner programs to a standing ovation. They were tremendously encouraged.
In 1994, due to the loss of several key members, plus the heavy workload undertaken by Marshall as the instrumental director for the music society, the orchestra was suspended as a separate entity.
The Villages Dance Band was formed in 1986 and played with five saxophones, two trumpets, a piano and, if lucky, a drummer. Enthusiastic and vigorous “conscription” brought the group to full strength by 1987 with 17 members plus a vocalist. The dance band was directed for awhile by Christy Reid but was disbanded in 2000 due to declining attendance and rising costs.
Fond memories of leading five different concert bands during his teaching career prompted Marshall to organize a band in late 1986. He reasoned that a band would be more appropriate for July 4th and Veterans Day. They could present outdoor concerts in the summer, too. By 1990 the band had reached a balanced membership of 36 musicians.
THE VILLAGE VOICES
In 1987, all these groups were combined under a new Villages Music Society and coincidentally, Marshall got married. His bride, Eloise, also a talented musician, agreed to form a choral group. The Village Voices started with 22 singers at the first rehearsal and grew to over 60 members.
On Tuesday, May 11, 1993 the first meeting of the future Villages Piano Club was held with Fredone Jones and Bobbie Cronquist as “ringleaders.” When they outgrew private homes, the first Program for Listeners was held in the Cribari Conference Room on April 17, 1994. The Program for Listeners series continues annually and is free to the public.
Earl and Kathi Levin formed a handbell ensemble in 1997. They even bought the first four octaves of handbells themselves. Some of the first members, as today, were members of the Village Voices. The Handbells perform regularly, both in The Villages and at outside events.
In 1999, Marshall and Eloise sold their Villages home and moved to Lincoln City CA. With both the instrumental and vocal directors leaving, it became necessary to find new and talented leaders for the band and Voices.
The Band chose Frank Ybarra, a trumpet player within its ranks to lead them. Frank resigned after about a year and the band searched for a new conductor and found Dr. Hal Peterson, who led them wonderfully until he resigned in 2015. The very capable Stan George, former trombonist with the United States Army Band conducted the band during 2016-17 time period until he resigned in 2017, Today's conductor is Jacque Leonard.
Ken Carter, already a Villages resident from 1998, noticed the vacancy in the Voices and called to offer his services. He met first with VMS President, Trudy Odbert, and Voices President, Bob Geisler, then the entire group, and offered to lead them provided they would take concert tours with him. The deal was struck and Ken has continued as The Voices second musical director and conductor.
The group, grew to over 100 members, and has traveled to Italy, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. In the US they have cruised New England and the Mississippi River and concertized thru California, Nevada and Utah. They continue to progress in professionalism.
In 2001 a professional concert series was conceived by Ken Carter and established with the help of some very dedicated Village Voices members and others.
The series has been rich with nationally and internationally known artists. The series has welcomed pianists David Henley (Chicago); Jonathan Bass (Boston Symphony), Neilson and Young (Dallas), Kinako Inagawa (Japan), Gwendolyn Mok (San Jose State), Ted Cornell (Virginia); active Broadway singers Cindy Marchionda (Early One Morning), Jeanne Smith (Les Miz), Carol Jaudes (Cats), George Merritt (Jekyll and Hyde et al); classical singers Aimee Puentes (San Francisco Opera et al), Richard Zeller (Metropolitan Opera), Opus Dei and Gloria Dei (San Francisco Opera), Bella Sorella (operatic duo); The Pacific Boys Choir (Oakland); Instrumentalists Guitarres y Congas, Edelmann and Rust (Germany), The St. Lawrence String Quartet (Stanford resident quartet), The Gryphon Trio (Toronto), The Birchfield Brothers (Nashville), The Stanford Strings and the South Bay Brass.
The musical heritage of The Villages is rich and diverse. We hope you appreciate our history and contribute significantly in our future.
Marshall Dahneke, founder
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