It's not the summer they expected, but the Wheaton Municipal Band plays on virtually

  • The band performs at Wheaton's Memorial Park, which reopened last week after a major renovation.

    The band performs at Wheaton's Memorial Park, which reopened last week after a major renovation. Courtesy of Wheaton Municipal Band

 
Updated 8/4/2020 6:59 AM

Like all performing arts groups, the Wheaton Municipal Band has struggled this summer with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic -- and keeping its audience engaged.

While its members were forced to cancel their season -- which typically draws more than 1,000 people to Memorial Park every Thursday night -- they haven't stopped the music.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Instead of playing in its new, $3.2 million Ravinia-style amphitheater -- built by the Wheaton Park District and set to debut this summer -- the band has hosted weekly online concerts, or webisodes, as they call them.

They've dubbed the series, "We're Still Here."

Wheaton Municipal Band's last concert in the shell. The band canceled its 2020 season but has held weekly online concerts in its place.
Wheaton Municipal Band's last concert in the shell. The band canceled its 2020 season but has held weekly online concerts in its place. - Courtesy of Wheaton Municipal Band

Each episode not only features highlights from their deep repertoire, but they always include a performer spotlight that sheds insight into the diverse backgrounds of its musicians and its 40-year director, Bruce Moss.

A recent episode showcased percussion section leader Andrew Packer of Lombard, who described how playing in the band helped him recover from a brain aneurysm.

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"This band helped me heal," said Packer, an assistant band director at Glenbard East High School.

This week's broadcast -- the last -- will showcase Gail Sonkin of Wheaton, who plays oboe and English horn in the band. Like many of the band's members, she brings professional experience to the ensemble.

The full Wheaton Municipal Band, sitting.
The full Wheaton Municipal Band, sitting. - Courtesy of Wheaton Municipal Band

The episode debuts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, but can be accessed anytime on the band's website, wheatonmunicipalband.org.

After earning a master's degree in the arts from Northwestern, Sonkin went on to play in such professional organizations as the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, the DuPage Choral Society, Northwest Choral Society and the Fox Valley Orchestra.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

She currently also plays in the DuPage Symphony as well the chamber group Trio Brava, in addition to performing jazz piano with the group, ZAZZ.

Her history with the band goes back to the 1970s, when she was a featured soloist, but she stopped for many years to concentrate on a career and raise a family.

Oboe player Gail Sonkin, a member of the Wheaton Municipal Band, will be showcased in this week's performer profile.
Oboe player Gail Sonkin, a member of the Wheaton Municipal Band, will be showcased in this week's performer profile. - Courtesy of Wheaton Municipal Band

Sonkin returned in 2007 and, like her fellow players, is committed to playing music and sharing it with the community.

"The high level of performance, outstanding musicianship of the members and our director, Dr. Bruce Moss -- and the supportive work that goes on behind the scenes -- keeps everyone coming back," Sonkin says.

Moss is something of an institution in Wheaton. He celebrated his 40th year with the band last year and he continues to balance the demands of their annual summer season with his work as director of bands at Bowling Green State University.

Bruce Moss has served as director of the band for 40 years.
Bruce Moss has served as director of the band for 40 years. - Courtesy of Wheaton Municipal Band

"For the first summer in 40 years, I have not been racing in preparation to make my weekly sojourn to Wheaton to conduct these wonderful musicians," Moss says.

Yet, Moss says the silence this summer brings great anticipation for the future.

"The silence reminds us of the faith we have in people and in connecting with them through performance," he says. "It reminds us that music next summer will be part of the healing process.

"Most importantly, it reminds us that music and community will come back even stronger," he adds, "and with more gratitude and confidence than ever before."

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