Tecumseh Pops Orchestra celebrates 35th anniversary with May 1 concert


Dr. James Ball, serving his 16th season as director of Tecumseh Pops Orchestra, motions during rehearsal on Monday. Martha Melcher and Bob Miller are pictured playing cello, and in the foreground on violins are Beryl McHenry and Helene Bleecker. Photo by Kerry Hamilton Smith.

For 35 years the Tecumseh Pops Orchestra (Pops), a group of local musicians, has entertained the community with a variety of music ranging from classical compositions, to contemporary works, to familiar pop songs. Their anniversary concert on Sunday, May 1, at 4 p.m. will feature “Travel Tunes” at the Tecumseh Center for the Arts.

In 1981, Elizabeth Wilson, Howard Furry, Don Dobrosky, Cathy Jo Flanders, Richard Boyd, Alice Travis, and Dick Reamsnyder, to name a few, organized the Tecumseh Pops Orchestra. The purpose of the Pops has been to foster, promote, and establish the musical knowledge and appreciation to the public. Three years later, the Tecumseh Community Chorus was established when James Hammann conducted both the Pops and the chorus.

Jeanette Meyer became involved with the Pops when she was a teacher at Ridgeway Elementary School and overheard band teacher Reamsnyder discussing it. “I just invited myself and never left,” she chuckled. Meyer, who plays first clarinet, now serves as the treasurer and publicity coordinator.

One of Meyer’s favorite memories is when former Tecumseh Public Schools (TPS) Superintendent Richard Fauble, former Tecumseh Mayor Harvey Schmidt, and Dr. Alan Snider, dressed in tuxedos, were featured artists and played toy instruments. “You couldn’t talk to them backstage. They were too focused,” she laughed.

What makes the Pops unique is the range of ages involved. Experienced octogenarians and talented students along with all ages in the middle play instruments ranging from the euphonium to the cello to the drums. “We all have something in common. We like to play our music,” Meyer explained.

For her, it has special meaning to see young and old unite to perform. Some of the younger members have been her former fourth grade students. Another unique attribute is that several members of the Pops and Community Chorus are related. “We’re all a big family,” Meyer said.

Another fond memory for Meyer is the concert in celebration of founding member Elizabeth Wilson’s birthday. Meyer remembers her from childhood and recalls, even then, how enthusiastic she was about music, specifically a string program. In her later years, Wilson was adamant that Tecumseh Public Schools have a string program. While it didn’t happen in her lifetime, the Elizabeth Ruthruff Wilson Foundation was able to help found a string program in the schools in 2003.

Through the years, high school students from Tecumseh and throughout the county have played with the Pops. Dedicated students have been awarded scholarships or monetary gifts for music camps and college.

Other Pops memories involve growth through several conductors including Tim Hoover, Howard Stukey, Yves Cohen, Hammann, Michael Hoffman, Jon Krueger, Matthew Savory, James Nissen, Jim Otto, Helene Bleecker and Adam Riccinto. 

Themes have been created for concerts so both groups could perform selections together. One popular tradition that is a result of this collaboration is the annual performance of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” at the Christmas Concert, which is always held the first Saturday in December.

 “It has been wonderful traveling these past 35 years with Tecumseh Pops,” Meyer said.

Dr. James Ball will direct the Pops. He is in his 16th season and works as the director of orchestral activities and professor of conducting at Albion College. Highlights of the upcoming concert include “Shenandoah,” directed by first-year conductor Tim Hoover. Dr. Ball will conduct Gershwin’s, “An American in Paris,” Grofe’s “Malaguena,” “Star Trek Through the Years,” and Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate of Kiev.” The Community Chorus, under the direction of Tecumseh Middle School Music Director Hannah Sparrow, will perform “I Sing Because I’m Happy,” “The Road Home,” “Gala Del Dia,” “Northern Lights,” and “O Schone Nacht.” Combined orchestra and chorus selections include Gustav’s Holst’s “Homeland,” and “Over the Rainbow.”

 While there has been enthusiastic monetary support in the past from the Herricks, Robideaus and Sages, each concert costs about $10,000 and is time-consuming to produce. Meyer hopes that an influx of supporters, in terms of time, talent and financial support, will make the load lighter.

Board Members are Helene Bleecker, Chairman; Allen Snyder, Vice Chair; Laura Lopez, Secretary; Meyer; Treasurer; Dianne Marsh, Chorus Librarian; Bob Miller, Orchestra Librarian; Susan Armour, Orchestra Librarian; Laura Sharp, Publicity; Abigail Ballou, Web Master; Paula Buermele, Sharon Roggelin, Sharon Scott, and DeAnna Strand, Members at Large.

Tickets are available for the concert are available at the TCA Box Office, 517.423.6617, or online - thetca.org.  Tickets are $10 for adults & $8 for seniors and students.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Tecumseh Pops Orchestra or Community Chorus, serving on the board, or contributing to the Pops/chorus , contact Meyer at tandjmeyer@earthlink.net  - 517-423-5989 or P.O. Box 125 Tecumseh, MI 49286. Website:  http://tecumsehpops.com. You can also like Tecumseh Pops on Facebook.


Tecumseh Herald


110 E. Logan St.
P.O. Box 218
Tecumseh, MI 49286

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