The Lawrence City Band will have a little different look when it takes to the South Park bandstand for its first summer concert of the season.
Missing from the conductor's podium will be Bill Kelly, who has served as the band's director for 21 years. There have been guest conductors during that time span, but Kelly has been the organizer, the glue that keeps the group together.
Kelly began playing clarinet for the Lawrence City Band back in the 1960s. His degree was in music education but he worked for 10 years as Kansas University's registrar. He never, however, gave up his love of music and continued playing with and directing groups, devoting much time to both the city band and to the well-known handbell choirs at Plymouth Congregational Church.
The Wednesday night summer band concerts are one of the most charming traditions of living in Lawrence. They bring people of all socio-economic levels out to the park on a summer evening to visit, unwind and listen to some music. The selections may range from Sousa to Scott Joplin. There seems to be a little something for everyone.
The tradition is, of course, in good hands with Robert Foster, director of KU bands, in the director's slot and Kelly taking a seat in the band's woodwind section. And as long as the concerts take place in South Park, they will be connected with Kelly's name, which is on a plaque dedicating the park's bandstand to the long-time director.
Kelly has done much to keep band music flowing in Lawrence. For that, city residents, both present and future, owe him a great debt.