A man who has directed the Lawrence City Band for more than a decade has announced he's stepping down from the position.
"Twenty-one years is a long time," said Bill Kelly, who will turn over the baton to Robert Foster, Kansas University band director, at the first summer band concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday in South Park.
The concerts will continue through July 15. In case of rain, they will be held the following night at the same time and location.
Kelly, for whom the bandstand in South Park is named, said he looks forward to playing his clarinet in the band and even enjoying the music as a spectator at times. He also plans to participate as guest conductor occasionally.
"We've got very popular people that can do it and will continue to have the band play in the park," he said. "It'll just keep going on as long as people enjoy it."
Foster said he accepted the directorship in hopes of continuing the strong tradition of city band in Lawrence. He said the first city band concert here was organized by the New England Emigrant Aid Society with instruments, music and uniforms sent from Boston. The concert took place in August 1863, the night before William Quantrill and his band of pro-slavery raiders burned and pillaged the town, he said, adding that all but one of the band members were killed.
"Ever since that time, Lawrence has supported a city band," Foster said. "This is really a continuation of the tradition and heritage of living in this town."
Roger Stoner, chairman of the city band board of directors, said the board discussed potential replacements for Kelly and chose Foster. "Bill's left a wonderful legacy to the city of Lawrence. We'll miss him," he said. "Bob is the right person to take the band forward right now."