History-laden bandshell kicks off 2024 concert season in Ashland

Seventy-five years ago, the Guy C. Myers Memorial Bandshell made its debut as a cultural institution, replacing the original wooden bandstand, at Brookside Park in Ashland.

In 1947, Louis E. Pete, “very famous here for his musical performances,” called for a new facility, said Judith Webster, recreation coordinator for the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department.

Pete’s roles over the years include founder of the Ashland Symphony Orchestra and music director of Ashland High School.

“Under him, Ashland (High School) became a model for musicals,” Webster said.

Pete’s request came to Kate Myers, who volunteered to build the Bandshell in memory of her husband. During its inauguration in June 1949, three days of ceremonies and music were organized to celebrate it.

This summer, like all the previous ones, will be marked by a series of concerts, which kicked off on Sunday by Sounds of Touch and its Motown selections. Attendees can sit in the 1,500-capacity amphitheater or find a spot on the lawn, which can accommodate an additional 1,500 people.

Judith Webster, recreation coordinator for the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department, talks about the history of the bandstand since its construction in 1949.

Few changes to Bandshell over the past 75 years

The venerable “new” Bandshell has changed very little since 1949, except for coats of paint and new benches, Webster said. Its dressing rooms and restrooms for performers as well as its U-shaped storage areas for instruments, lighting equipment and other props from stage productions are still in use.

There have been no major changes, Webster said.

On the walls of the Bandshell’s interior is a tidy timeline of framed posters announcing years of summer concert series.

A 1999 poster, celebrating the Bandshell’s 50th anniversary, promoted summer acts ranging from Suzuki Strings and Sounds of Broadway to Rockin’ Tommy Gunn and the 45’s and Good Company.

A view from the Ashland Bandshell stage overlooks the seating options. The benches and lawn will accommodate 3,000 people.

“We do about 19 concerts every year,” said Webster, who hires the staff members and all the artists and also negotiates contracts.

Bandshell shows are free and open to the public on Thursday and Sunday evenings.

Some are part of an annual tradition – the Ashland Area Community Concert Band on Father’s Day, the Ashland Symphony Orchestra (June 30) and the Moonlight Serenaders Big Band on July 4), patriotic concerts and the Ashland Regional Ballet (August 11) – “still our finale (event),” Webster said.

Talent search is part of performance planning

To find additional talent, “every two years I go to the Ohio Arts Professional Network conference. That’s where I get a lot of my ideas,” she said, adding that the network is known to many entertainers’ agents.

This year, the Red Hot Chili Pipers, 11 Scottish bagpipes, will perform a mix of traditional, fusion, rock and pop music on August 8.

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