About 40 years ago, a small teaser article in the News-Sentinel announced the forming of a community band and invited interested parties to dig their horns from the depths of their closets, dust them off, and bring them to the Neff Hall auditorium at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) to be in a concert band. Thirty-five musicians, many who had not touched their instruments since their days in high school or college bands, showed up at that first rehearsal in November 1979. The result was the Fort Wayne Area Community Band.
The man who had the idea to start the ensemble, and served as its conductor for seven years, was Dr. William Schlacks. As director of instrumental music at IPFW, he made it possible for the newly established band to practice every Tuesday night at IPFW. Schlacks helped them establish an internal governing organization and elect officers for a board of directors.
From its inception, the Fort Wayne Area Community Band has brought high-quality live music to the surrounding communities, performing at local venues such as Foellinger Theater, Embassy Theatre, Civic Theatre, and Auer Auditorium (on the campus of IPFW). The Fort Wayne Area Community Band has also performed in the Elkhart Festival of Bands, the Indiana State Music Educators Association Conference in Indianapolis, and annual graduation ceremonies of Ivy Tech State College and the University of St. Francis.
Dr. Scott Humphries
Dr. Scott Humphries is a native of Alleghany County, Virginia. He received a Bachelor of Music Education from James Madison University and a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech. He has also earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Boston University. While in Virginia, Dr. Humphries directed bands at both the middle school and high school levels. He worked with the Roanoke Youth Symphony Orchestra for ten years and taught as an adjunct lecturer for Dabney S. Lancaster Community College.
Dr. Humphries has presented research at the Virginia Music Educators Association Convention, the Music Educators National Conference Convention, and has published research in the international journal Psychology of Music. He is also a published composer of music for concert band and wind ensemble. His compositions have been published by MSB Publishing and Stephen Melillo. Dr. Humphries is currently an assistant professor at Manchester College in Indiana, where he is the Director of Instrumental Studies and Music Education, and conducts the Manchester Symphony Orchestra and the MC Symphonic Band.
Dr. Humphries was hired as director of the Fort Wayne Community Band in the fall of 2011. He is a member of MENC, IMEA, CBDNA, and the College Music Society. Dr. Humphries remains in demand as a judge and clinician throughout the United States.
David Blackwell joined FWACB in 1988 and has been an associate conductor since 1992. He is a graduate of Indiana University, receiving a B.S. in Music Education and an M.S. in Education. He taught in the Ridgefarm, IL music department for three years before moving to the Wawasee Schools music department in Syracuse, IN, where he taught for the next thirty-five years and served as its chair.
David is a jazz clarinet player who performs regularly with several groups and an arranger/composer writing arrangements for FWACB and the Embassy Anniversary Shows, as well as for many school groups.
Susan Jehl has been with FWACB since 1980 and has been a long-time associate conductor of the band. She graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. and an M.A. in Music Education. She served as band director at Summit Middle School for 40 years until her retirement in 2020.
Susan calls the clarinet section of the FWACB home. She says, "The band has been a blessing for the performance opportunities it gives me, and for the music we have been able to share with the community."
Dr. William Schlacks
Founding Conductor, 1979-1985
The man who had the idea to start the ensemble, and served as its conductor for seven years. As director of instrumental music at IPFW, he made it possible for the newly established band to practice every Tuesday night at IPFW. Schlacks helped the Fort Wayne Area Community Band establish an internal governing organization and elect officers for a board of directors.
Dr. George Cavanagh
Head Conductor, 1985-1998
Dr. George Cavanagh took over the baton as director of bands at IPFW when he replaced Dr. Schlacks, who took a position at Muskingum College in Muskingum, Ohio. He led the Fort Wayne Area Community Band until his retirement in 1999.
Interim Director, 1998-1999
Principle trombonist of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor of the Community Orchestra, David Cooke served as interim director of the IPFW Wind Ensemble and the Fort Wayne Area Community Band during the yearlong search for Cavanagh's replacement.
Dr. Reed Thomas
Head Conductor, 1999-2004
Dr. Reed Thomas brought the band to new heights through his own love of music and challenging skills. Thomas left after four great years to take a position at Middle Tennessee State College, and so David Cooke was called upon to lead the Fort Wayne Area Community Band again during the search for a new director.
Dr. Gregg Gausline
Head Conductor, 2004-2007
Dr. Gregg Gausline brought great excitement and musicality to the band until he took a position with the University of Georgia.
Dr. James Colonna
Head Conductor, 2007-2008
Dr. James Colonna received his doctorate of Musical Arts degree from Michigan State University. As a trumpet performer, he performed with the 113th Army Band, the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra, the Cheyenne Symphony, as well as numerous community events. The Fort Wayne Area Community Band is proud to have been under the direction of Dr. Colonna with all of the great talent he has to offer. In the summer of 2008, Dr. Colonna took a position with the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire, WI.
Dr. Chad Nicholson
Head Conductor, 2008-2010
Dr. Chad Nicholson was the Associate Director of Bands at Colorado State University, where he conducted the Symphonic Band, assisted with athletic bands, and taught conducting. Dr. Nicholson received a DM in wind conducting from Indiana University under the mentorship of Ray Cramer and Stephen Pratt. While at Indiana University, he was a guest conductor with the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, and Concert Band. Additionally, he was an instructor with the IU Marching Hundred. Nicholson also holds degrees from New Mexico State University (MM/Conducting) and from the University of Oklahoma (BME). With such an excellent resumé as his, Dr. Nicholson brought a high level of talent with him as he lead the Fort Wayne Area Community Band for two years.