Summer Concert Series A Long-Time Athens Tradition

Fred Kight

Updated Mon, Jul 16, 2012 9:57 am
Photo Credit: 
Maryann Hartwick
Fred Kight talks with Chris Walker, Pete Couladis and Andrew Trachsel about the "Under the Elms" concert series

The lawn chairs are pitched, the blankets unfurled and hundreds of people are gathered on the Campus Green at Ohio University in Athens.

It's time for another performance of the "Under the Elms" Summer Concert Series.

This free, outdoor concert by the Communiversity Band has been an Athens tradition since the 1940s. Part of that tradition is starting the concert with the Star Spangled Banner.

Also well-established is the participation of Chris Walker, who has been playing with the band since 1978.

"This is one of the few places that we can play and really enjoy ourselves. There's a variety of music, we have a good time," said Walker.

Walker plays flute and drives down from Columbus for rehearsals on Tuesday evenings and performances on Wednesday evenings.

"I'm looking at the crowd and thinking, 'this is fantastic.' This is just wonderful. They bring picnics, whole families are there. They're getting a chance to listen to things they wouldn't ordinarily hear. It's just a wonderful community adventure," she said.

Pete Couladis of Athens is another veteran. He's been playing with the band for 33 years.

"It's a lot of fun, you have friends that you make over the years and you see them once a year, here. And, it gives me a chance to keep my lip in shape for other kinds of things like summer theater, sometimes, and plays and musicals that go on during the school year," said Couladis.

"It's a lot of fun, it's enjoyable and some of these pieces you don't play very often and you look forward to it, it brings back memories," he continued. "One of the pieces we were playing tonight, I remember playing it, probably, in college. It just sounded very familiar. And it's enjoyable to play some of the stuff you haven't played for 20 years or so."

Couladis and Walker are joined by about 90 other players every week.

"Yeah, we've got a great combination. I think tonight, we were joined by about 80 or 90 players," said Andrew Trachsel, Ohio University's director of bands.

"They range in age from high school to retired, so it's a wide range of experience and skill," he said. "We've got people who are current high school students, to current college students, alumni, faculty, emeriti faculty, and then just community members who enjoy playing. And maybe the only time they play is during the summer. It's just a great melting pot of different abilities and musical backgrounds and it makes it a challenge, but it also makes it a lot of fun, too."

The "Under the Elms" Summer Concert Series is down to two more concerts: One on July 18 and another on August 8.  

Slideshow: Under The Elms Concert Series

Maryann Hartwick

Communiversity Band member Pete Couladis has been performing with the group for more than 30 years.

Maryann Hartwick

Communiversity Band members practice during one of their Tuesday night sessions.

Maryann Hartwick

Sprawled out on blankets...

Maryann Hartwick

...or propped up in lawn chairs, audience members gather under the trees on Ohio University's College Green.

Maryann Hartwick