LAFAYETTE, Ind. – For the first time in 32 years, the Lafayette Citizens Band will be led by a new baton, but not a new face.
Matt Conaway has been named the 180-year-old group’s final musical director. He takes over from Bill Kisinger, who retired last year after more than three decades.
A Michigan native, Conaway is no stranger to the Lafayette Citizen Band. Previously, he played in the percussion section, was a member of the board of directors and was guest led.
“I look forward to bringing new ideas to the set, while relishing the opportunity to continue the great things that loyal audiences have come to expect,” Conaway said in the band’s announcement.
Conaway has been a resident of the community for over 20 years and in 2001 graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree with honors from Indiana University. He earned a Masters in Music from American Band College at Sam Houston University.
An award-winning composer, Conaway is on the faculty of Purdue University Band and Orchestra, serving as conductor of the Purdue Symphonic Band and Purdue Symphonic Orchestra. He is associate director of the All-American Marching Band and the Boiler Brass Ensemble, which plays Purdue men’s basketball games.
Kisinger retired in 2021, conducting his final performance at a Labor Day concert in downtown Lafayette.
“I think that’s enough,” Kisinger, who also served as Purdue University’s group director for 37 years, told the Journal & Courier before his retirement. “I just turned 80, and it’s starting to get more physically demanding with the drudgery of doing 12 shows all summer.”
The “Lafayette Band” made its debut on July 7, 1842, 17 years after the birth of the city itself.
Some interesting facts about the Lafayette Citizens Band are detailed on the organization’s website, including, verbatim:
- 1882: The band performs at the dedication of the Tippecanoe County Courthouse. One hundred years later, in 1982, the orchestra played again for the centenary re-inauguration of the renovated courthouse.
- 1895: John Philip Sousa’s military band plays at the Grand Opera House in Lafayette. In 1995, the Lafayette Citizens Band performed a special concert at Long Center in honor of Sousa and his music.
- 1904: The group begins to give concerts in the new Columbian Park.
- 1939: The town of Lafayette establishes a band fund, which has provided the band with its main source of income ever since.
- 1989: Bill Kisinger becomes musical director of the Lafayette Citizens Band and the band plays its first fundraising concert at the Long Center.
- 1992: The band plays for the opening of the new bridge over the Wabash. Also that year, the band celebrated its 150th anniversary with a specially commissioned piece from Warren Barker, “Hoagy Carmichael in Concert,” which quickly became a favorite of concert bands across the country.
- 2001: The Lafayette Citizens Band receives the Sudler Scroll Award for Community Bands, which is presented by Al and Gladys Wright, co-chairs of the John Philip Sousa Foundation, at the band’s 160th anniversary concert.
The 2022 season includes the following performances, all held at 7:30 p.m. at Riehle Plaza:
- May 30, Remembrance Day
- June 2, high school night
- June 9
- June 16
- June 23
- June 30th
- July 4, Stars & Stripes
- July 7
- July 14th
- July 21
- July 28
- september 5, labor day
Deanna Watson is editor-in-chief of the Journal & Courier. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @deannawatson66.