BAND CONCERT FINALE

This past Saturday we attended Mike Leckrone's final concert as director of the Wisconsin band.

We've seen most all of the concerts over the years and every one seems to be bigger and better. But, this one, Mike's finale, was way over the top!

If you have never taken in the concert, it's something you should consider next year even with a new director. Now, those will be big shoes to fill.

The concert is held in the Kohl Center and some years ago was expanded from a Saturday evening show to a Friday and Saturday evening show, and now a Thursday, Friday and Saturday show.

We're guessing each concert, which was sold out, was attended by upwards of 15,000 people.

Now, picture 278 energized University of Wisconsin student musicians at one side of the Kohl Center, Mike in his specially designed sport jacket directing and all the lighting, pyrotechnics, special guests and much more tickling your senses from the very first drumbeat when the percussionists start marching in, right up to the minute when the band throws its sheet music in the air and suddenly it's over.

It's an unbelievable show and if that isn't all enough, after the intermission Mike was back up on the harness floating above the thousands of fans, doing somersaults and waving.

What's hard to believe is that Mike Leckrone is 82 years old and this year marked his 50th anniversary as director of bands at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Back to the show -- Mike always has a few special guests, most of which are graduates of the university, and their performances are world class. There were a couple of trumpet performances that left a person in awe, several female soloists who had voices as perfect as you can get, a barbershop quartet that dazzled and more.

The talk at the concert was that Mike Leckrone's successor would be named fairly soon and that list of potential candidates had been whittled down. Certainly with this band's reputation not only at the concert but the football games, and especially the bowl games, the smaller version at the basketball games and in other performances around the state throughout the year, there will be no shortage of people wanting the job.

No matter who is selected to become the new band director, we know the tradition will continue. The new person will no doubt interject his or her ideas into the band and its performances, but when you have a winner we doubt any changes will be significant, at least in the near future.

Another interesting tidbit about the concert is the seamstress who makes all of Mike's sequined jackets, Lois Levenhagen of Beaver Dam. We don't know where she gets all the ideas but they are eye-catching, they are memorable, and they are a big part of the Mike Leckrone persona. Lois announced earlier this year that she is retiring from that work this year, right along with Mike.

If you didn't get to the concert this year, Wisconsin Public Television will air the entire concert at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 4.

RETIREMENT ARRIVES

As most of our readers now know, I'll be retiring in the near future, at least from the day-to-day grind of full-time work here at the Daily Times. By midweek I should be finished up with all the loose ends and will be able to take the full step back.

This has been an incredible run for me and I can't imagine any other work that could have been more satisfying or rewarding than being a newspaper editor in my hometown.

People have asked if I plan to continue to write the In Times Square column and the answer to that is a "qualified" yes, I do plan to continue the column, at least for now.

The topics to write about sometimes come from connections I make in the course of a day at my desk, some come from emails, others from letters, so I'll have to see if that kind of interaction and story ideas continues. But, for now, I'm going to work with that.

Another of my little projects has been the popular Glimpses of the Past. I will continue to develop those as well.

So, I plan to keep my "fingers" in journalism a little bit going forward, but at the same time I want the flexibility that can come only from taking a step back from the demands of full-time work.

It's been a great run, I've gotten to meet countless interesting people who have interesting stories to tell our readers and I've been blessed with the support of so many people.

The staff here at the Daily Times has been a cohesive unit that is as close to a family as you can get and it has always been a pleasure to be part of it.

In the near future I hope to have a new email address in place as well as telephone connection so there will be ways for you the readers to offer suggestions for the column.

Until then, take good care and I'll see you next week, same place, same time.

TLS

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