ESCANABA, Mich. (WJMN) – Age is just a number, and once many hit retirement age, most usually want to take it down a couple of notches. At 92 years young, John Chown is an Escanaba City Band Member and Director who never misses a beat.
“What keeps me coming back? Well, I started playing a drum and bugle corp when I was eight years old down in Sault Ste. Marie and I just kept playing through high school and while I was at Northern Michigan University,” John Chown, Member and Director of the Escanaba City Band said. “I got into the Army and I was in the Army Band, I moved back to Escanaba at 4:30 in the afternoon and I was at a city band concert that night and I have been down here ever since.”
As a member of the band for 59 years, John has played with many people in this group including several former students who he has helped teach and inspire.
“First of all, John was my band teacher when I was in high school and then I had to sit next to him in City Band and that was a little unnerving,” Craig Woerpel, Member of the Escanaba City Band said. “Now it’s gotten to be an enjoyable time to be able to sit next to him and every year he says I’m not coming back and every year I go see you next year,”
“I directed the Escanaba Band for 40 years, I was down at Stephenson for 5 years and I intend to sit for the City Band for maybe another year or two, I don’t know if I want to be 100 sitting in the band,” Chown said.
The impact John has had on the music in the Upper Peninsula reaches far beyond a monthly chair at the Karas Memorial Bandshell in Ludington Park.
“I took a video of him practicing and posted it in different places on Facebook, including some alumni pages, and people commented things like ‘Favorite Band Teacher’, “I remember Jack’ and all the band things that they did,” Woerpel said. “He went to the Green Bay Packers and he played there, we went down to Florida when I was in high school. So he’s gone on a lot of trips with kids, done a lot of halftime shows at the Escanaba football games and the concerts as well. He’s had an impact over the years and people were writing in from the 1960’s all the way up to the 1980’s and 90’s.”
John says one day he might put the baton away, but for now, the beat goes on.
“I can’t see any other place I would rather be tonight,” Chown said.
The Escanaba City Band has three more concerts for the 2022 summer season on August 3, August 10, and August 17 at Karas Memorial Bandshell in Ludington Park.
For more information on the Escanaba City Band, click here.