America's Hometown Band celebrates 50 years of Emens

Gospel groups bring diversity to Ball State music event

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - That community college spirit in music was America's Hometown Band's forte Sunday at a free concert in Emens Auditorium.

Not only did the band, led by Ball State music professor Roger McConnell give its time to a pair of local praise choirs, the incredibly talented Indiyah Balfour, a student at Royerton Elementary School, showed the crowd her range of music.

 McConnell pointed out how the community came together with Ball State more than a half century ago when the late BSU President John Emens forged a partnership and fundraising drive to build the auditorium that carries his name.

 As McConnell said, he has used the same green room as David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey during their visit besides world known violinist Joshua Bell who was there last week.

The crowd was more interested in the fabulous Phil Cooley on piano and the dangerous George Wolfe on the saxophone, who represent the community and college of music.

Cooley, a local physician know for delivering babies, played Concerto in A Minor by Edward Grieg and Jody Nagel, as precise as helping give new birth.

And the band, some 30 members, produced the rest of the sound that Concerto requires.

Wolfe, once identified as dangerous for his anti-war views and writings, offered Persuasion by Jazz master Sammy Nestico with that smooth, stylist saxophone sound he is well known as a musician and music educator.

One of the performances included tiny sculptures by Ned Griner that were displayed on the walls and set to music like Barnum & Bailey favorites, Army of Nile and Raiders of the Lost Arc. 

The community concert also featured some of the great gospel sounds of Muncie from Church of the Living God and Destiny Christian Center.

Pastor Keith O'Neal of Destiny is known for his musical talent and brought a praise choir that sang a handful of Christian and gospel favorites.

And Pastor Kevin Woodgett of Living God, had his Living Praise group that has recorded five songs and performed throughout the country.

That feeling of God on Sunday rang through the community auditorium, bringing people to their feet and feeling good about peace and love for everyone.

McConnell reminded the crowd that the band would be in the community, providing free concerts throughout the year, The band gets its support from Ball State and the City of Muncie.

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