BGSU trustees approved software engineering major

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University hopes a new software engineering major will compute with new students. The University Board of Trustees approved the new major Friday. The new major will equip students to enter an expanding job field. When the measure was considered by Faculty Senate, Professor Robert Dyer said that the openings were growing by 17 percent a year. In introducing the new major, Provost Rodney Rogers said it aligned with areas of strength that already exist within the university. President Mary Ellen Mazey said it also fills a niche. When talking with prospective students about what they’d like to see at BGSU, engineering is the top request. Now, BGSU will have a software engineering program as part of its offerings. The Department of Computer Science, which is within the College of Arts and Sciences, already has a specialization in software engineering that was established two years ago. This will be only the second such program in the state, Rogers said. He knows of at least one student now studying out of state who plans to transfer to BGSU. David Levey, chair of the trustees, asked how faculty would be hired for the new program. Rogers said that the department has a strength in software and has hired one professor in each of the last four years. The specialization now enrolls 17 students, according to the proposal. The university expects to enroll 50 students in the new major in the first year and have 200 within the first five years. “It’s a very rigorous program,” Rogers said. The major must now be approved at the state level. The possibility of another new major related to engineering was mentioned when the trustees approved the naming of the Stephen and Deborah Harris RIXAN Robotics Laboratory. The lab, which now under construction, will allow the College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering to go ahead with the creation of a degree in mechatronics, an interdisciplinary field that combines electronics with a number of other engineering disciplines. Also, the trustees approved changing the name of the aviation program from Bachelor of Science in Technology to a Bachelor of Science in Aviation. This will be consistent with industry practices, Rogers said. When the matter was approved by faculty senate, Carl Braun, the liaison for the aviation program, said that often graduates have to explain their degrees to prospective employers.  Students and graduates…


Honoring donors name of the game for BGSU trustees

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University has momentum in its quest to have facilities, whether a building or a room, named for donors. On Friday, the university’s Board of Trustees approved the naming of five facilities, small and large. President Mary Ellen Mazey credited Michael Kuhlin’s donations that resulted in the Michael and Sara Kuhlin Center with getting the ball rolling. Mazey said that will continue into next year. Shea McGrew, vice president for University Advancement, said after the meeting that he expects to have some of the million dollar donors behind the planned renovation of Hanna Hall into a new home for the College of Business present when the trustees convene in February. McGrew said that the naming of facilities approved Friday represented a total about $3.4 million in gifts. Mazey said it is important to have the trustees not only approve the naming of facilities, but to also recognize the donors at their meetings. All but one of the donors were present for the trustees meeting. Stephen Harris, who with his wife, Deborah, provided the funds for a new robotics lab, died very recently. McGrew said he hoped Deborah Harris will be able to attend the February trustees meeting. The Stephen and Deborah Harris RIXAN Robotics Laboratory will allow the university to go ahead with a degree in mechatronics, McGrew said. The lab is now under construction. The patriarch of a family of “rink rats,” Scott Slater will have his contributions to the university recognized in the Slater Family Ice Arena. Slater has long been a supporter of hockey at the university, providing crucial support when the program was threatened with discontinuation. In addressing the board, he said education was valuable as are athletics “which build character.” “When you have both of them you have a great chance to successful in work,” he said. Slater said he hoped that the work funded by his donation will “give the old lady a new heart” and insure the arena will be viable for another 50 years. Steve Krakoff, vice president for Capital Planning and Design, said the university is working with a design firm that specializes in ice arenas to determine what renovations the facility needs. The university library’s Sound Recording Archives will be named for Bill Schurk, the librarian and archivist responsible for building up the internationally recognized collection. Schurk said he knew as an…


Brown back in BG as new city prosecutor

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Hunter Brown made the decision early on to use his law degree to serve the public. “I’ve always liked the idea of working for the good guys,” said Brown, Bowling Green’s new city prosecutor. When Brown moved into his office at Bowling Green Municipal Court on Monday, there was something very familiar. It wasn’t just that he had worked as prosecutor in a college town before. It wasn’t just that he graduated from BGSU and interned at the local court during law school. It was all that, plus that he was born and raised in the community he was now working for as prosecutor. “I’m about as local as you can get,” Brown said. “This is the community I’m from. It gives me a chance to help out the community.” Brown, who now lives in Toledo, has taken the seat formerly held by Matt Reger, who was recently elected Wood County Common Pleas Court judge. Reger held the city prosecutor’s job for 20 years. “The hard part about leaving is we’re a family out there,” he said. But Reger added that he leaves knowing the office is in good hands. “He’s from Bowling Green. He knows the community. He knows the people,” Reger said of Brown. And he knows how to work in a college town, since he has spent the last three years as city prosecutor in Tiffin. But when he took over this week, Brown said he quickly realized some differences. “This job is bigger. The caseload is bigger,” he said. “It’s something I’m excited to tackle.” According to Reger, the municipal court sees up to 13,000 cases a year, with the city prosecutor’s office handling as many as 4,000 of those. The court’s jurisdiction covers most of Wood County except for Perrysburg and some villages. The types of cases heard in this court have a lot of similarities to those in Tiffin – another college town. “A lot of them are alcohol related,” Brown said. Heroin is also a big concern here as well, and the new prosecutor said he hopes to continue the Vivitrol program already in place here to help opiate addicts break their addictions. Brown said he plans to spend some time getting to know the community again, learning the issues that Bowling Green residents and officials are concerned about. “Those will be my concerns, too,”…


Weekend shows celebrate Howard’s Club H musical legend

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Steve Feehan and Tony Zmarzly bought Howard’s Club H earlier this year, it was with the intent of reviving the venerable night spot as a top local music venue. The fruits of those ambitions will be evident this weekend. Blues rocker Michael Katon, who played the club regularly from 1982 through the early 2000s, will return for a show Friday. Then on Saturday at 10 p.m. a crew from WBGU-TV will be on hand to tape a triple bill of younger acts – Tree No Leaves, Indian Opinion and Shell. “Howard’s has always been a music venue, a place to hear live music with a bar to go with it,” Feehan said. “We want to foster a community as much as we can. That’s what’ needed in this day and age.” And that’s what Howard’s was in its heyday. The bar traces its genesis to 1928 when Fred Howard opened a candy shop where the Wood County Library now sits. Legend has it, Feehan said, that the candy store also fronted a speakeasy that was popular with college football players. When Prohibition ended, Howard’s became a bar. The details of that and other stories are hard to pin down, he said. That’s part of the fun. “After we took ownership, then we realized what we had,” Feehan said. People would walk through the door, and share lore of the club, which moved across the street in the early 1970s. “We almost felt more like curators than owners.” Both Zmarzly and Feehan experienced that history as teenagers playing in bands at Howard’s. Feehan played piano with the Madhatters and Zmarzly is still active as a drummer and guitarist in AmpWagon. Feehan remembers crossing paths with Katon back in the 1980s. After a hiatus of more than 10 years, Katon returned to the club during this year’s Black Swamp Arts Festival. He played a late night Saturday show at the club before closing the festival on the Main Stage. He was glad to be back, Katon said, in a telephone interview. Howard’s was packed just as it was in the old days. Katon, who tours extensively in Europe, said he’s played clubs in England that hosted Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Black Sabbath, and The Animals. Those clubs had a well-worn, lived in feel. “Same with Howard’s,” he said. The BG club is one of his…


Wood County legislators split on ‘heartbeat bill’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s legislators split on the “heartbeat bill” that now sits on the desk of Ohio’s governor. If signed by Gov. John Kasich, the bill would become one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. State Sen. Randy Gardner voted for the bill, while State Rep. Theresa Gavarone bucked the majority in the party and voted against it. Both legislators are Republicans from Bowling Green. The bill would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That could be as early as six weeks into the pregnancy – before some women are even aware they are expecting. The ban would make an exception if the mother’s life is in danger – but not in cases of rape or incest. The “heartbeat bill” has been tried before in Ohio, but prior to this week failed to get past the state senate. However, State Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said the twice-defeated bill came back up again because of Donald Trump’s presidential victory and the expectation he will fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices favoring stricter abortion bans. The abortion restrictions were tacked onto an unrelated bill about child abuse and neglect. The bill, with the “heartbeat” portion, passed the Senate by a vote of 21 to 10. “I respect this is a difficult issue for many people,” Gardner said on Wednesday.  “For those who believe the unborn with beating hearts are indeed children, the bill’s intention is to defend innocent human life.” Gardner added that most of the comments received in his office on the bill have been in favor of the legislation. “The vast majority of emails, letters and phone calls to my office on this issue have been in support of the bill,” he said. The bill passed in the Ohio House by a vote of 56 to 39. Seven Republican representatives broke with the party and voted against the bill. Gavarone was one of those to vote “no.” On Thursday morning, Gavarone said she voted against the “heartbeat bill” because it does not allow for exceptions in cases of rape or incest. “That was an important consideration for me,” she said. Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion, states were permitted to restrict abortions after viability — the point when the fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving…


English Department & General Studies Writing to merge at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Faculty Senate at Bowling Green State University moved to join together units that no one quite remembered the reason for splitting in the first place. The senate Tuesday voted to merge the General Studies Writing program, which teaches the basic writing courses mostly to first-year students, with the English Department. After a presentation by Lawrence Coates, who chairs the English Department, and Lee Nickoson, director of General Studies Writing, Rebecca Mancuso, of history, noted she was always “mystified” why the two were separated. The split occurred on 2003. “Are there any drawbacks?” she asked of the merger. Only a need for a larger meeting room, said Nickoson. Offices for both units are on the second floor of East Hall. Each unit has about 30 faculty members, Coates said. Faculty members in both units approved the merger. Coates said that the merger will allow those now teaching in the General Studies Writing to teach courses other than writing. Now even though they may have background in other disciplines within English, they can only teach those courses in special circumstances. “We look forward to having that expertise freed up,” Coates said. Conversely, it will allow some English Department faculty to teach first year writing, Nickoson said. As envisioned, the merger will mean that writing courses will be extended throughout the curriculum, and into courses for upperclassmen. Some administrative changes will be required. These will result in cost savings of a few thousand dollars. The Board of Trustees will have final approval on the change.


BG Council asked to steer clear of roundabouts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   One citizen asked Bowling Green City Council Monday evening to put the brakes on plans for roundabouts in the community. “I don’t like roundabouts,” said Bud Henschen. “I don’t see any good with them.” And if the city really wants a roundabout, it should try one out in a place less likely to cause congestion, he said. The rotaries don’t belong at the busy intersections of Interstate 75 and East Wooster Street, he said, where traffic is bound to back up. Henschen’s concerns were based on City Council’s second reading Monday of an ordinance authorizing ODOT to put two roundabouts at the I-75 intersections on Wooster Street in 2018. The work will include upgrades to the intersections with two roundabouts “to enable continuous and safer traffic flow, pedestrian access across the bridge deck and aesthetic improvements that will be visible from I-75 as well as those entering the community.” ODOT has allocated $750,000 in safety funding for the construction, and has agreed to fund the entire cost for engineering and construction administration. The city will be responsible for the remaining costs. That brings up Henschen’s second complaint about roundabouts – the cost. “Taxpayers of Bowling Green are saturated with taxes,” he said, listing off possible plans in the community for a new school, new city building – and now roundabouts. “Some place it’s got to stop. You’re going to tax people right out of this community.” Henschen said big rigs won’t be able to use the roundabouts, and working people will leave the community. But council member Sandy Rowland responded, saying studies show roundabouts to be much safer, to cause less traffic congestion, and to cost less than standard intersections which require traffic signals. The city is also considering two other possible roundabouts for the East Wooster Street corridor – at Dunbridge Road and Campbell Hill Road. Surveys submitted earlier this year by Bowling Green residents, about the proposed East Wooster corridor work, showed a great deal of suspicion about the roundabouts. But city officials believe that once citizens realize the safety benefits, and experience the ease maneuvering around them, that most motorists will be sold. The city administration has posted the following information on roundabouts on the city website in an effort to answer common questions about the rotaries. Roundabouts are designed to be safer and more efficient than a traditional…


Faculty will write next chapter in plan to reduce textbook costs

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University Faculty Senate opted not to take action on a resolution calling for a goal of cutting student textbook costs by 50 percent. Instead the senate at the urging of Jim Evans will leave it up to an ad hoc committee to come up with a proposal, and then will act on that proposal. That’s the way the senate procedure should work, Evans said. He argued that the resolution before the senate, which had been tabled in November, would be an “insult” to the members of the ad hoc committee because it spells out what they should decide. That resolution called for the committee to report to the full senate by next May, and there was no indication that the timeline would change. Everyone in the senate, everyone at the university, Evans said, wants lower textbook costs. The senate should allow the committee to study the issue and deliver a resolution based on what they find. The decision should be based on “facts and data” not “hearsay,” which is how he characterized what was in the resolution. Anne Gordon asked why the resolution insisted that BGSU lead the state in reducing textbook cost. “That seems to me to be part of the agenda of moving so quickly,” she said. “Why is taking lead in this issue so important?” Allen Rogel said it was important for the senate and the university to present options before “we get something rammed down our throats by the legislature.” Provost Rodney Rogers noted in his remarks that the BGSU Board of Trustees will be discussing textbook costs. At November’s meeting when the resolution was first presented, the initiatives BGSU is already taking were spelled out. Those included the bookstore’s BGSU Choose program through which students can comparison shop for books. Also, the library buys copies of some of the most in demand textbooks and makes them available at the reserve desk. David Jackson said “faculty have little control over what private corporations charge for textbooks.” Michelle Heckman, said the Math Emporium was able to negotiate getting materials for 60 percent less when it bypassed the bookstore. The motion to delay consideration of the resolution until the ad hoc committee delivers its report passed 45-21.


BG works to smooth Complete Streets process

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council is being driven to make changes in its Complete Streets efforts. During a Committee of the Whole meeting prior to the council meeting Monday evening, it was decided that efforts to add accommodations for bicycles must come earlier in the planning process. The timing problems came to light earlier this fall when decisions on Conneaut and Fairview avenues had to be rushed due to bidding requirements. The rush led to decisions being made by the Transportation and Safety Committee, rather than the entire City Council. That did not sit well with some council members, who pointed out that the entire body should be part of decision making when it involves big sums of money. “We just need to be aware enough of the timing issues,” so council can weigh in on the projects, council member Bob McOmber said. Mike Aspacher, council president, reminded that the purpose of council committees is to help facilitate conversations with staff and then make recommendations to the full council. John Zanfardino, chairman of the Transportation and Safety Committee, agreed but added that “there was a rushed element at the end.” He said council will be more aware of bid deadlines in the future. “I think we learned this year.” But planning for Complete Streets may still be difficult, since city officials will not know how much funding they have to work with till later in the year. Public Works Director Brian Craft said his office can give council a list of streets to be repaved at the beginning of the year, but the funding won’t be determined till later. Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said it would be helpful to discuss plans before the city gets too far into the budget process. In an attempt to avoid the rush experienced this fall, council wants to meet on the topic in January. Zanfardino suggested council also discuss the YaY Bikes initiative, which focuses more on education of bicyclists and motorists and less on expensive construction projects. “This appears to be a possible cost saver for the community,” council member Sandy Rowland said. But council member Daniel Gordon questioned why so many other communities are building bike accommodations, if the YaY Bikes initiative is the best route to pursue. He suggested that the city collect data to substantiate its decisions. Aspacher said the YaY Bikes program…


BG unanimously rejects easement for pipeline

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As protesters packed the city building and chanted outside, Bowling Green City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to deny an easement for a pipeline across city property. The decision was full of drama – with one man being escorted from the meeting by police, and the city building packed to capacity, so about 40 people had to listen to speakers relaying the meeting outside. Council President Mike Aspacher started the meeting by asking to depart from the regular agenda. “The building is overflowing,” causing concerns to the fire chief, he said. So, Aspacher suggested that council go straight to the pipeline ordinance and vote prior to hearing any testimony. That caused a brief uproar in council chambers, with people demanding to be heard. Aspacher said council had listened to many comments at the last two meetings, and wished to act on the ordinance. But Joe DeMare, who recently ran for U.S. Senate with the Green Party, continued his objection. “I’m respectfully requesting that you listen to the people,” DeMare said. “Please take your seat,” Aspacher again asked. When DeMare refused, Aspacher asked police to escort him out of council chambers. Then council member Sandy Rowland told the packed room that they would not be displeased with council’s action. And one by one, the council members stated why they planned to vote down the easement. The delay in the speaker system outside the city building meant the cheers from the parking lot rose up to council chambers about 20 seconds later than the action was taken. After three council members explained their “no” votes, the chants of “one more vote” started outside.  Council member John Zanfardino went over to the window and opened it wider to hear the chants and announce that he would be the fourth vote to reject the pipeline easement. “I just don’t want to be complicit voting for pipelines,” Zanfardino said. Then a new chant rose up from outside. “This is what democracy looks like.” Council’s vote at least temporarily denies Nexus natural gas pipeline the right to cross 29 acres of city land located in Middleton Township, about 2.5 miles east of the city’s water treatment plant. The Bowling Green vote came one day after federal officials announced the much protested Dakota Access Pipeline would be rerouted. That fact was not lost on Anita Britt, who thanked council…


“Living With Earl” finds its voice in reading by author & new audio edition

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Some people were surprised when Tom Lambert wrote a book. Some people even took umbrage at what they saw his literary pretensions. After all, didn’t he flunk English? And Lambert, a cabinet maker by trade, admits he didn’t spend much time in the library either, though he did tend bar at Howard’s Club H when it was located where the Wood County Library now sits. Yet talking to Lambert, it’s clear the man loves a story, and he put the effort into writing some of them down. The result was the book “Living With Earl” which he self-published a year ago. It’s available at Grounds for Thought and Finders downtown as well as online from Amazon or at his website livingwithearl.com. The book recounts Lambert’s interactions with a mysterious visitor, Earl, who claims to be Mark Twain. Though he’s a spectral presence, he still has mortal needs like food, coffee and getting his laundry done. Lambert will revisit the site of his old haunts, when he reads from “Living With Earl” Saturday, Dec. 10, at 1 p.m. in the atrium of the Wood County Library. The reading comes in conjunction with the completion of an audio version of the book, which will be available on Amazon.  Professional actor Brian Schell, who Lambert said has a voice similar to Motel 6 pitchman Tom Bodett’s, gives voice to Lambert’s adventures with his quirky visitor. Lambert, 70, said the book grew out of daily Facebook posts in which he attributed sundry witticisms to Earl, a name he pulled out of thin air. “On this date, according to Earl, the first Dalmatian was spotted” was a typical one.  Lambert would put the posts together in the 40 minutes he had in the morning before heading off to work. The posts garnered the stray like or two.  Disappointed by the seeming lack of reaction, Lambert announced, that he would cease posting the Earl jokes. He was flooded with protests, and the suggestion he pull some of these stories together into a book. Along the way Earl had decided he was Mark Twain. The book is a series of vignettes that have Lambert and the strong-willed Earl, talking, disputing, eating, shooting pool, visiting various area locales. Some of the stories about Lambert are true, others about Earl are made up, and much of the material lies in the netherworld between…


BG a bubble of more liberal voters in last election

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s not unusual for Bowling Green to be a bubble of liberal thought in Wood County. So when the General Election vote tallies last month in Bowling Green didn’t jive with the Wood County totals that went purely Republican, it was not a surprise. But when a meeting was held last week on BGSU’s campus, one person in the audience brought up concerns about living in a community where the majority of the voters supported Donald Trump. That new realization gave him a bad feeling about Bowling Green that he hadn’t felt before. So while it’s not a surprise, maybe it is worthy of a story that the majority of Bowling Green voters did not cast their ballots for Trump. In Wood County, Hillary Clinton got just 42 percent of the vote. But in Bowling Green, she secured nearly 61 percent of the vote, with 7,161 votes for Clinton compared to 4,621 for Trump. Clinton won in all four wards of the city – ranging from getting a high of 70 percent in the Second Ward to a low of 54 percent in the Fourth Ward. Derrick Jones, assistant director of BGSU Academics and Assessment, said at last week’s meeting on campus that Wood County’s support of Trump as president called into question the inclusive and diverse philosophy of the university and surrounding community. He mentioned the Not In Our Town organization which works to stop hateful speech and discriminatory actions on campus and in the community. “While we’re saying ‘Not In Our Town,’ we may be thinking, ‘definitely in our town,’” Jones said questioning how much that organization stands for the true feelings of the community. Bowling Green also voted differently than the rest of the county in other races. This election year was decidedly one-sided, with only Republicans winning contested races in Wood County. There were no tight races. Theresa Gavarone solidly beat Kelly Wicks for the state representative seat. Dr. Ted Bowlus unseated Wood County Commissioner Joel Kuhlman – meaning for the first time in several decades the three commissioners will all be Republicans. Matt Reger won the judge seat, Mark Wasylyshyn was re-elected as sheriff, Craig LaHote was returned as county commissioner, and Jane Spoerl won handily as county treasurer. Wood County voters also re-elected Republicans Bob Latta to the House of Representatives, Randy Gardner to the Ohio…


Everyone gets into the act at Arts X

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News At Arts X a surprise awaits the visitor around every corner. An actress in a shimmering gown and dramatic blond wig, steps forward to sing “Let It Go.” One of the Living Statues in the lobby of the Wolfe Center, she’s been waiting her turn as other characters have stepped forward to offer a song or monologue. Look up and there’s a pair of eyes projected overhead. Big Sister is watching. As the audience settles for a performance in the Donnell Theatre, someone says she has just posed for a Vogue cover. Two comedians come careening down the hall on the second floor of the Wolfe Center, making a harried entrance into the Heskett dance studio. Do you know there’s an art exhibit, they exclaim. It’s part of the act; we’re all part of the act. There’s always something to see and hear and do at Arts X, and that means there’s always something to miss. There’s always someone new to meet, or an old friend to greet. With the end of the semester looming, and finals and holiday festivities just ahead, artists, performers, writers and their fans took time out to celebrate. Arts X drew hundreds to the Bowling Green State University School of Art and the Wolfe Center Saturday night. The annual event is part art fair, part music and theater festival, part holiday party. Arts X organizers have been tweaking its presentation since the start. This year the Bowling Green Philharmonia offered a prelude of holiday music in the Donnell before the hubbub officially ensued. The theme “Volanti: Seeking Unknown Heights” tied in with the featured guest artists Violet and Fortuna, storytelling acrobats. They performed two shows in the Donnell, sections from their work-in-progress, “Laces.” The piece combined a disembodied voice emerging from the dark to set the scene, a house in Toledo’s Old West End. The scenes introduced the audience to the home’s inhabitants. There was a very tall man, the original owner. There were stuffed toys left behind in a trunk. There was a lesbian couple who made the property bloom with plants and company. These stories were played out with circus arts – aerial work, acrobatics, clowning, tightrope walking. In the most dramatic instances the duo of Erin Garber-Pearson and Kathleen Livingston hung high above the Donnell stage, muscles taut, twisting in light and shadow. Auxwerks, a dance…


BG Area Community Band has plenty to celebrate

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Bowling Green Area Community Band has an added reason to be in a celebratory mood this holiday season. The band is marking its 10th year. It was about 10 years ago that several area musicians, including then Bowling Green High band director Thom Headley and Nick Ezzone, a retired educator and conductor of the North Coast Concert Band, started meeting to discuss the formation of a community band. The ensemble was launched early the next year. So the theme Rejoice! is doubly appropriate for the band’s upcoming concert. The Bowling Green Area Community Band and the BiG Band will perform a free concert Sunday, Dec.11, at 4 p.m. in the Bowling Green Performing Arts Center. The concert will be conducted by Catherine Lewis, the band’s assistant director. She joined five years ago, recruited by Headley, who now directs the band. The program took shape when she found an arrangement of the 16th century hymn “Gaudete,” which means rejoice. In selecting repertoire, she said, “I’m always trying to find something that pushes everyone in the group.” On this concert it is “The Eighth Candle,” a fantasy on Hanukkah themes by Steve Reisteter. After what Lewis called “a very prayerful” opening for the woodwinds, the piece shifts into a vigorous rhythmic section that has the band negotiating through different musical meters. Headley, who was conducting a recent rehearsal, was intent on making sure the band brought out all the harmonic and rhythmic subtleties of the piece. Lewis said that’s important. Playing challenging music makes the band experience more fun for the members and lifts the musicianship of the entire band.  And that translates into deeper playing on everything the band plays. Also on the program will be arrangements of traditional fare including “Carol of the Bells,” “Greensleeves,” “Ding! Dong! Merrily on High” featuring hand bells and popular Christmas songs from the 1950s. The band will play music from the movie “The Polar Express” and conclude with Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival.” The membership of the band has a range of skills. The ensemble has more than a dozen current or former band directors in its ranks. That includes Lewis who said she was glad to get a chance to pick up her bassoon again when she joined five years ago. Others are avocational musicians, many who hadn’t played their instruments much or at all since…


‘Dear Santa’ makes local Christmas dreams come true

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some Santas defy the storybook image of a white-bearded man dressed in red and conveyed by reindeer. Here in Bowling Green, the Santas are more likely to wear jeans and pack gifts in pickup trucks. For the eighth year, the Dear Santa Society in Bowling Green will do its best to answer the Christmas wishes of about 40 families. The organization, founded by Jim and Dee Szalejko, goes well beyond buying teddy bears and candy canes. Through the generosity of the community, the Dear Santa program has given such gifts as a violin and music lessons to a child whose greatest wish was to learn how to play, ballet lessons for a child who dreamed of dancing, and baseball registration fees for a child who longed to play ball. One year, the local Santas delivered bicycles to an entire family. Another year, the program received a special plea from a local child, whose family was on the verge of being evicted after missing two months’ rent. “All I want for Christmas is to be able to stay home,” the child wrote. So the Dear Santa program paid the overdue rent. This year, the group plans to help a young swimmer whose family can’t afford the program fees, and help pay the way to Disney World for a marching band member whose family can’t swing the costs. “It’s unbelievable, the need in the city,” said Dee Szalejko as she prepared for another year as the local Kris Kringle. The Dear Santa program actually had its start 28 years ago in Philadelphia, when Jim Szalejko asked one of the post offices in the city to send him a letter written by a child to Santa Claus. The post office faxed him eight letters. “I couldn’t decide,” Jim said. And the Dear Santa Society had its soft opening. “I had no intention of forming anything.” He just asked some friends and family to help him fill the requests. But when the next Christmas rolled around, the Santa helpers from the year before wanted to repeat the joy. And from there it snowballed. “I remember every delivery,” Jim Szalejko said, especially in the most downtrodden neighborhoods of Philly. The toughest request came from a little girl whose dad had recently died. “She wanted her dad back,” he said. “We went overboard with her.” When Jim moved…