Ronald Demkee

Allentown, PA

I serve as conductor of the Allentown Band because it is important work that is unquestionable and unequivocally stimulating, challenging, and gratifying on so many and disparate levels.

I do what I do because I believe that it is important work, almost a civic duty, to do whatever I can to keep the cultural heritage and musical traditions of this esteemed organization alive and well. The Allentown Band has been part of the cultural fabric of the Lehigh Valley since 1828. That’s longer than the New York Philharmonic has been in existence! As conductor, I am humbled to stand on the shoulders of Martin Klingler, Albertus Meyers, and so many other wonderful musicians who have gone before and labored long and hard to make this venerable organization what it is today.

I do what I do because it is stimulating. Words are inadequate to explain the rush and elation experienced at the culmination of an expressive performance of “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral” when a large, exuberant audience in the incomparable Carnegie Hall responded with a sustained standing ovation; or the quiet satisfaction and sense of fulfillment realized at a performance of “Victor Herbert’s Favorites” when a senior resident at the Phoebe Home expressed appreciation with a calm, approving smile. These are certainly dissimilar experiences on the surface, yet both produced a profoundly meaningful, almost spiritual feeling of vindication of what we do and why we do it.

I do what I do because it is challenging. The challenge of programming music that holds the interest of both the musicians and audience can sometimes be a tricky balancing act. As the musical director, I get to choose, rehearse, program, and conduct the music played at approximately forty performances a year. It is indeed fortunate that we have musicians who are equally at home with classic symphonic repertory, Broadway show tunes, swing music, and the most indigenous of all band music, the march. And whether the band is playing at Allentown’s West Park or Coca Cola Stadium, a church picnic or college commencement, Allentown’s Symphony Hall or New York’s venerated Carnegie Hall, a local church picnic or an International Music Festival in southern France, the band members always bring a professional commitment to a high-quality performance.

The Allentown Band is not exempt from the challenges inherit in funding an arts organization in the current economic climate. But I have no doubt that an organization that has stayed in existence through the Civil War, two World Wars, and the Great Depression will weather the present storm and not merely survive, but will continue to thrive, because it is truly a labor of love for the band members.

I do what I do because it is gratifying. Musicians are very fortunate not only because what we do is rewarding on a personal level, but also because what we do is valued by others, musicians or not, who appreciate music of quality. It is also satisfying to know that most people would agree that organizations like the Allentown Band contribute greatly to the enrichment and quality of life of the community at large.

I do what I do because I consider it important work that for me has become almost a mission. It is stimulating, challenging, and gratifying, and I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I do.