- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - During the day, they teach and attend school, treat patients and perform a variety of other important tasks.

But once a week, they put down their dental drills and stethoscopes, leave their classrooms and instead pick up their trombones, trumpets and saxophones to make music, the Norfolk Daily News (https://bit.ly/1RJtD3v ) reported.

“We’re so fortunate to have a group like this. It gives everyone the opportunity to still play,” said Dr. Brad Krivohlavek.

The local dentist is one of four musicians who have been performing with the Northeast Area Jazz Ensemble since its inception 35 years ago.

The others are Randy Neuharth and Dr. Tom Surber, both of Norfolk, and Bob Johnson of Howells.

Once a week, those four and a number of other musicians practice their craft. And when the opportunity presents itself, they take their show to a concert hall, dance hall or some other venue.

The musicians came together in 1980 at the urging of the late Jim Boullion, who was Northeast Community College’s director of music at the time.

In a Daily News article in 1986, Boullion said he promoted the idea of the ensemble to provide community members with the opportunity to continue playing jazz music after leaving school.

Initially, Boullion appealed to area music teachers. While they continue to form the basis for the group, others are involved, including doctors and engineers, Neuharth said.

Although members aren’t paid, teachers can earn professional growth credits through the college from their participation, he added.

While the group normally charges a fee to perform, the money is used to support the college’s music department and to provide scholarships for music students who attend Northeast.

Plus, along with the college, the ensemble co-sponsors the annual Northeast Jazz Festival that brings together junior high and high school band and show choir students from around the Midwest.

Other benefits are not as visible.

For instance, participation “exposes young directors and educators to new techniques and literature,” Neuharth said.

The organization has thrived all of these years because the musicians get great joy out of playing, Johnson said.

Johnson’s association with music began in the fourth grade when he was forced to dance with a girl at a school activity where the band provided the music, he said with a laugh. The following year, he took up trumpet playing and joined the band so he could avoid dancing.

“I wasn’t tall enough for the basketball team, so I stayed with the band,” he added.

He went on to have a career as a school band director and has had “no regrets,” he said.

Neuharth took up the trombone as a child after he and a friend found his dad’s old trombone and an electric guitar in the attic of their house in Eureka, South Dakota, he said.

“We took the instruments and marched up and down the street, and the band director drove by and said, ‘When you’re old enough, that’s what you’re going to play,’ ” Neuharth said.

The rest is history.

Kevin McLouth, a trumpet player from Norfolk whose parents were music teachers, took over as Northeast’s director of instrumental music when Neuharth retired. He now also directs the ensemble, as Neuharth did for many years.

Krivohlavek comes from a line of polka-players. Although he started out playing the trumpet, he switched to drums along the way.

While one might think that directing a group of music directors would be tricky, Neuharth and McLouth said it’s fairly easy. Although most members aren’t shy about providing input, it’s done in a congenial manner.

After all, they have the same goal of providing an enjoyable experience for the audience by playing their signature “big band” music, which is recognizable by people of all ages, McLouth said.

During its long history, the ensemble has played for dances at a variety of venues, at fundraising events, at the shopping mall during the holidays and in at least two concerts a year, which are presented at the college. They also entertain at the Norfolk Veterans Home regularly.

Still, Krivohlavek said they sometimes feel as though they are the best-kept secret in town.

That was evident last December when, while providing Christmas music at the Sunset Plaza, a listener said, “You’re really good. Where else do you play?” Krivohlavek said.

So members are looking for opportunities to perform, Neuharth said.

And they are inviting the public and especially former members to help celebrate the organization’s 35th anniversary at a concert on Sunday, May 17, at 2 p.m. in the theater at the Cox Activities Center at Northeast Community College.

“We want to invite alumni and reminisce,” Neuharth said.


Information from: Norfolk Daily News, https://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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