Ashland City Band: Meet the Conductors (Part 1)

Raoul Maddox: 71 years with the Ashland City Band!
Don Bieghler: 56 years with the Ashland City Band.
Ed Wight: ‘only’ 37 years with the Ashland City Band.

The Ashland City Band will play Thursday evenings at 7:00 pm on July 22, 29 and August 5, 12, 19 in 2021. Bring your chair or blanket and join them at the Lithia Park Bandshell.

164 years

Have you ever wondered about the people behind the 4th of July concert and the summertime Thursday evening concerts in Lithia Park? Today you will meet three musicians who between them have 164 years of experience in the Ashland City Band. Yes, you read that correctly — 164 years of experience either playing in or conducting the Ashland City Band!

Roots to 1876

Ashland City Band, 1916
The Ashland Concert Band (as the City Band was then called) was photographed in 1916 on the elevated bandstand in Lithia Park. (photo from the Southern Oregon Historical Society)

The Ashland City Band is truly an Ashland institution. Its roots go back to 1876, and funding for the band was even written into the Ashland City Charter by our citizens in 1938. It is one of only two city bands in the state of Oregon that give a full slate of weekly concerts each summer.

Meet the conductors

On July 7, 2019, I sat around a dining room table with them. I felt honored. I learned a lot. I want to share what I learned with you. Let me introduce you to the musicians who joined me around the dining room table at Raoul Maddox’s home. 

Raoul Maddox 
Ashland City Band
Raoul Maddox played trombone for the Ashland City Band for 50 years, and also conducted the band for another 21 years. (photo by Greg Badger, 2015)

First was Raoul Maddox, with the Ashland City Band for 71 years, from 1947 to 2018! Of those 71 years, he was the band conductor for 21 years, from 1977 to 1997. Maddox joined the band as a trombone player at age 14, while attending Medford High School. Sadly, Maddox passed away in September 2020. In case you are interested, his first name is pronounced ‘rail,’ as in ‘railroad.’

Don Bieghler
Ashland City Band conductor, 2015
Conductor Don Bieghler of the Ashland City Band. (photo by Greg Badger, 2015)

 The second was Don Bieghler, now the longest serving conductor in the history of Ashland City Band.  If you attend band concerts, you hear his informative introductions to each piece of music. He has been conductor for 22 years, from 1998 until now (2021), so he just passed Maddox’s record. However, he has been with the band in total for ‘only’ 56 years. Bieghler joined the band in 1963 as a clarinet player, and then transitioned to conductor in 1998 when he took over from Maddox. Wight described Bieghler as “truly beloved,” one reason why band members are so loyal, returning to play year in and year out.

Ed Wight
Ashland City Band
Ed Wight is a clarinet player in the Ashland City Band, and his father conducted the band. (photo by Greg Badger, 2015)

 The third was Ed Wight, not a conductor…but the son of a conductor. Wight tried to join the band in 1965, when he auditioned with his clarinet as a 14-year-old. He was disappointed to be turned down, but he came back at age 15, auditioned again, and was accepted into the band. You might call Wight a band “princeling,” because his father Dave Wight conducted the band for nine years, from 1968 to 1976. Since Ed lived outside of Ashland for a number of years, he has now played in the band for 37 years. He has also served as Band Librarian for 28 of those years.

Creative conducting

 Ed told me a funny anecdote about his father’s creativity. A few minutes before he was to conduct a concert, his father Dave discovered he’d left his conductor’s baton at home.  There was no time to get it, so Dave broke a tiny branch off a tree and used it for the concert.

Three special conductors

Bieghler, Maddox and Wight described three 20th century conductors who stand out for their transformative influence on the band.

Ward Croft, conductor from the 1920s to 1941, established the summer tradition of Thursday nights in Lithia Park (which we still enjoy). Earlier city bands contained almost exclusively brass instruments. Croft expanded the band to include a full complement of woodwind players (flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones and bassoons). It was now a full concert band. As an aside, Croft even featured the “Little Symphony” orchestra for some Thursday concerts in the park during the early 1930s. This Little Symphony was a precursor to today’s full Rogue Valley Symphony.

Glenn Matthews, conductor in 1947 and from 1951 to 1954, gave the band its modern title – Ashland City Band. It had previously been called the Ashland Municipal Band for many years. You might be surprised to know that for decades the National Anthem was played at the end of each concert. Matthews began our current tradition of opening each concert with the Star Spangled Banner. He also standardized the ‘extra concert’ during the July 4th week. You may have noticed that if the 4th of July is not on a Thursday, the City Band plays two concerts that week. This maintains the tradition of summer Thursday evening concerts started by Matthews.  Back in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, the band usually played only one concert that week – on July 4th.

Bieghler and Wight also praised Raoul Maddox, who was sitting at the table with us. While conducting from 1977 to 1997, Maddox expanded the band from about 55 players to 75-80 players. More important than quantity was the boost in performance quality during Maddox’s tenure. Ed told me “the band is not only bigger, it’s better – as it now draws consistently on Rogue Valley Symphony wind players, SOU Faculty members and local band teachers who want to play during the summer.” 

Ashland City Band, 2015
This photo shows the entire Ashland City Band in 2015. It was taken at the bandstand in Lithia Park. (photo by Greg Badger, 2015)

“…the audience spontaneously stood as one – and that brought tears to my eyes.”

Ed Wight

Uplifting moment

 Ed Wight described a moment in the band’s history that deeply moved him. “While we get a partial standing ovation at the end of every concert, we almost never get one during the concert itself.  I only remember one such occasion. In 2012 we performed a medley of Irving Berlin tunes.  It was a glorious arrangement, and closed with one of his two most famous songs – ‘God Bless America.’  It was such a beautiful, heartfelt version, the audience spontaneously stood as one – and that brought tears to my eyes.”

This is one small example of how the Ashland City Band uplifts us and brings us together as a community. We are fortunate to have this dedicated group of musicians in our midst, summer after summer, year after year. 

Ashland City Band, 2015
This photo shows the beautiful Lithia Park setting for Ashland City Band concerts. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2015)

Magical

I will close with this quote from an audience member that really struck me: “The Ashland City Band is magical. It reminds me of the movie The Music Man, which I loved. Not that the band is the same as the Music Man, but there is a similar flavor and feeling of an old-time place. It’s the flavor of a place where people in the community come together to sit in the park on the lawn, eat ice cream and listen to music.”

More to come 

There are many more City Band stories to tell. I will describe the band’s history and share other funny and meaningful band stories in Parts 2, 3 and 4 of this series about the Ashland City Band. 

References:

Author in-person interview with Raoul Maddox, Don Bieghler and Ed Wight, July 7, 2019. Thanks to Ed Wight and Don Bieghler for proofing the article and adding more of their memories in the process.

“Uplifting” – Art to inspire kindness

Large. Visible. Have you seen it?
Huge mosaic wall mural.
The artist shares hidden secrets.
Artist: Krista Hepford.
Ashland Public Art series.

“Yes, that’s how ‘Uplifting’ got its name,” Krista confirmed with a laugh.

Have you noticed it?

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Uplifting as seen from Siskiyou Blvd. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

If you live in Ashland and drive a car, you may have seen this public artwork hundreds or perhaps thousands of times. But have you noticed it?

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Overview of Uplifting by Krista Hepford, located at 1668 Siskiyou Boulevard. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Fun story: How the artwork was named

I love it when reality is more surprising than fiction. This is one of those stories. Artist Krista Hepford received approval in early 2016 from the owners of 1668 Siskiyou Boulevard to install a mosaic wall mural on the side of their building. But she was stuck. She had ideas, but none seemed right for this spot, at this time. She knew she wanted to create something from discontinued ceramic tile samples.

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Notice the creamy yellow color of the upper left color block. This early photo shows blocks of color, structural steel and the two faces. (photo by Krista Hepford)

“Then I saw a paint swatch at Bi-Mart, that yellow color,” Krista told me as she pointed to the wall. “That kinda looks like the creamy yellow of the Ashland Springs Hotel downtown. I like things to look like they belong. And the name of the paint swatch was – ‘Uplifting.'” 

“No way,” I replied, incredulous.

“Yes, that’s how ‘Uplifting’ got its name,” Krista confirmed with a laugh.

She even showed me a photo to share with you.

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Here is the color swatch that led to the name of this artwork: Uplifting. (photo by Krista Hepford)

Where you will find “Uplifting”

Uplifting is a large ceramic tile wall mural on the side of the Abbey Carpet & Floor (Carpet Mart) building, located at 1668 Siskiyou Boulevard. If you love chocolate, I’ll tell you it is next to Branson’s Chocolate shop. If you love Thai food, I’ll tell you it is across the street from House of Thai restaurant.

A hidden story

“Have you heard about one of those GPS games called Geocaching?,” Krista asked me as she reached into a hidden spot and pulled out an odd little container. I know very little about it, so she explained that people use an app to find hidden places or ‘treasures’ as they travel.

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
This official geocache box is located at the Uplifting artwork. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

She went on, “This is an official geocache, and this is how I get a lot of compliments on my artwork. I knew that my artwork was away from downtown Ashland. My daughter was interested in geocaching, so we made this to attract people. Look at all these people who have been here, the most recent one on June 23rd [the day before I interviewed Krista].” Both tourists and locals discover Uplifting through their geocaching searches.

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon, geocaching
This official geocache box and sign-in sheet is located at the Uplifting artwork. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

How the wall and the dumpster “inspired” the artwork!

Before she thought of creating art on the wall, she was a customer of Abbey Carpet & Floor. The long blank wall on the side of the building, visible from Siskiyou Boulevard, was hard to miss. Plus it was a magnet for graffiti painters.

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Here is the wall in April 2017 before Krista began building Uplifting here. (photo by Krista Hepford)

She went on to tell me, “I have an interior design degree, so I was remodeling my house and coming here to get supplies. I saw them throwing out marble and beautiful glass tiles. I asked and was told, ‘Well, they’re discontinued.’ So I said to Eric and Dan, the store owners, ‘Why don’t you put that stuff you’re throwing away on your wall instead? Show all that lovely stuff you have on the inside, on the outside.'” 

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
This photo shows a small sample of the discontinued ceramic tile samples that Krista worked with. The samples in this photo were from Tile & Stone Design. (photo by Krista Hepford)

At this point, Krista had no idea what image to put on the wall, just the inspiration to put something there. 

She told them, “I could make a bird.”

“You could do that?”

“Yes, I could do that…or something.” 

It turned out to be a very large “something.”

“This is my most prized piece that I’ve done.”

Krista Hepford

Challenges to overcome: first step, build trust 

As Krista explained, “You have to build trust, right?” This happened multiple times in the art project, first with Eric and Dan of Abbey Carpet & Floor. They only knew her as a customer. They didn’t know what she could do, and here she was asking to take over the side of their building. To build trust, she had to pass a test. She explained, “First I had to build this awning for them. Once I built that, they thought, ‘Okay, she has some construction skills. She can do this.'”

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Krista built this awning to build trust with Eric and Dan of Abbey Carpet & Floor. (photo by Peter Finkle)

“I hope the mural puts a smile on a few faces.

Eric Austed, co-owner of the building

I spoke briefly with both Eric Austed and Dan Leary, who own the building and store. Both expressed appreciation for Krista’s work ethic and for the finished artwork. They were impressed by her ability to navigate the city approval process, raise money for the project, hustle for donations of materials, recruit and train volunteer helpers, plus put in countless hours herself over a period of almost two years.

Eric summed up his feelings in a few words. “We are very grateful to Krista and to all the people who helped. I would hope the mural puts a smile on a few faces.”

Challenges to overcome: Public Arts Commission approval

Once she convinced Eric and Dan, she had to build trust with the Public Arts Commission (PAC). I was a little surprised, because Krista had been a commissioner on the PAC in 2013 and 2014. To be fair to the PAC, this was a large art project in a very visible location, so the commission wanted to make sure it would be done right. 

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Early sketch by Krista Hepford for Uplifting. (photo by Krista Hepford)

When she presented her design to the Public Arts Commission in August of 2016, they were skeptical that she had the skills to create this large public artwork. They were also concerned that the indoor tiles she was saving from the dumpster would deteriorate in the hot sun. Krista explained that the whole point of the artwork was, “I want to save things from the dumpster.” 

She returned to the PAC meeting of February 2017 with more details and got approval at that time. However, the commissioners required that she build the wall mural so that it was removable. This made the project more complex than just applying the mosaic tiles to the wall.

Uplifting, Ashland public art
This photo shows a detail of the steel structure that Uplifting mosaic tile boards are attached to. (photo by Krista Hepford)

Challenges to overcome: no funding 

The PAC told Krista that they did not have any funding for this artwork, so she would have to raise the money herself. More allies appeared just as Krista needed them. First, the building owners agreed to supply the grout, cement, bolts, screws and hardware that she needed. Of course, they were already supplying most of the recycled tiles that Krista saved from the dumpster to use in making her mural. With that beginning, Krista felt comfortable to begin fundraising. 

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Krista’s fundraising display at the Ashland Art Center in April 2017. (photo by Krista Hepford)

Another trust-building process was with the business and residential neighbors of the future artwork. She said, “I would not build something that people in the neighborhood didn’t want.” She made a computer generated illustration to show how the Uplifting mosaic would look on the side of the building. Then, along with her daughter, she took the illustration with a petition and knocked on every business and residential door in the immediate area. 

“We showed them the mock-up and asked them to sign if they liked the art. We got 100%. Not a single person said, ‘No, I don’t want that.'” 

Showing the mock-up to neighbors jump-started her fundraising. The acupuncturist across the street was a runner and offered to organize a 5K run to raise money for the artwork. Deena at Branson’s Chocolate next door offered to make custom chocolate bars for Krista to sell for fundraising. 

Chocolate saved the day in another way

Krista knew a contractor at her church who agreed to help install the hardware to hold the heavy mosaic tile mural pieces. When he had a family emergency and had to withdraw from helping, she faced another challenge. Again, help came in an unexpected way. She told me, “I was selling those chocolate bars at the Grange Coop one day. Nelson Oostenink, the head of the Grange at the time, happened to be a contractor. He got interested in my project and said ‘I’ll help you out.’  He installed, welded and donated the hardware.”

Here is Krista with Nelson Oostenink. (photo by Andrea Carmichael)

Challenges to overcome: materials stolen 

One more hurdle! After she had navigated the Public Arts Commission process, she got to the site one day to find that all the recycled ceramic tile display boards she had been saving behind the building for a year were gone, stolen. She had to start over, collecting and saving from the beginning again. She stayed positive, because “every hurdle that I hit, something good happened to change that. One of Abbey Carpet & Floor’s suppliers said, ‘We’ll start bringing you everything that we get rid of or discontinue,’ so my pile got bigger faster. It was actually even higher quality tile than I had collected before.” 

How “Uplifting” was designed

Krista expressed again and again during our talk that Uplifting was a community project. From fundraising to construction to simple encouragement, many people chipped in to help her create this artwork.

Let’s go back to the beginning. You read the story above describing how the artwork got the name “Uplifting.” From that name, a design began to crystallize in Krista’s imagination. She explained how difficult the year 2016 had been for her, with so much negative news in the media. It weighed on her, the feeling she is only one person and she can’t do anything about it. “It started to overwhelm me,” she said, “and that mixed with finding the Uplifting idea led to this design as my reaction to all the negativity in the world. That’s why there are all different colors, because there are no races in here. Most of all, it’s about being kind to one another, reaching out to one another.” 

The fingernails, the door and the window

I pointed to the glass tile fingernails that stand out. Krista surprised me by saying those were put together by kindergarteners and elementary school kids. Their participation meant a lot to her, because she wanted to involve the community. 

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Uplifting, showing detail of glass tile fingernails. (photo by Krista Hepford)

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Medford donated the old door. 

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Uplifting by Krista Hepford, door detail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Here is some frustrated-artist humor from Krista on September 24, 2017: “Eeeeerrrrrrrg! Building a crooked window to look in perspective is a LOT harder than drawing one!!!” See photo below for the crooked window layout.

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Trying to figure out the “crooked window,” September 25, 2017. (photo by Krista Hepford)

On September 27, 2017 Krista wrote: “Getting close to the finish line so that means…. energy and money is running low. Thanks to Trinity! My new volunteer who helped me work out the window. She was just traveling through Ashland and bought a mural candy bar at ShopNKart!”

What happened when Krista got bored

“I got bored right around here,” Krista said as she pointed to the lower arm. “This arm was the last piece. I needed to do something different to make this more interesting to me.”

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Uplifting by Krista Hepford, close-up of the arm on the right. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

“Look closely at it. You can see here is a child, and the child is pointing up at something. There is a butterfly, and the butterfly is flying towards a flower.” Making these playful touches brought the mosaic alive for her again.

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Uplifting detail showing the child (lower left), who is pointing to the butterfly (center right), which is flying up to the flower (top right). (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Another financial angel

I described some of Krista’s fundraising joys and struggles above. That money covered the cost of everything in the artwork that was not donated. It did not cover her final months of work to build this huge art project. Another financial angel appeared, the Haines & Friends Fund, which offers stipends periodically to artists and art projects. 

One of the fund directors saw a newspaper article about Krista’s art project and reached out to her. They suggested that she apply for a grant. Happily surprised, Krista applied and did receive funding. She told me, “That made a huge difference, in terms of support for the final three months of time I put into this.” 

Non-financial angels

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
This photo shows a few of the many people who helped Krista create Uplifting. (photo by Krista Hepford)

Krista described many other “angels” to me. “The real support is that every time I was out here working, there was someone keeping me going. Joggers going by yelled out, ‘Wow, we really love that.’ One time I was up there on the scaffold and a fellow came over and he sang a song to me (a Native American song). He said, ‘The universe is happy with you.’ Some people came over to say ‘Can we help?’ and I’d say ‘Here, grab a sponge and wipe down some tiles.'”

She felt like she was at the center of community building, right there in the parking lot on Siskiyou Boulevard.

Krista’s artistic journey

Krista has been an online art teacher and artist for many years, but she took a circuitous route to get here. She was raised in a musical family, and in high school felt pushed to meet her parents’ expectations to pursue music rather than art.

After high school, she studied accounting and went to work for General Motors. Later, she felt called to go back to college to study art and interior design. Since then, she has taught art in Arizona, Kansas, and for a while at Willow Wind school in Ashland, as well as online.   

Other artworks by Krista

Krista Hepford
Krista made this COVID-19 themed collage in early 2020. It sold at the Rochester Museum of Art in April 2020. (photo by Krista Hepford)
Krista Hepford
Krista made this practical yet whimsical driftwood artwork. (photo by Krista Hepford)

Like Uplifting, the mosaic tile artwork below was made from discontinued tile samples. She describes it as “an inspirational tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn and street music in general.” You can find it at her art web page.

Krista Hepford
“Beyond the Blues” by Krista Hepford. (photo by Krista Hepford)

When Krista sent me photos that give a sample of her other artworks, she also sent these words: “I no longer believe in making art simply for beauty or art’s sake.  I feel that art should have form and function – as in… I need a chair so why not have it also be art – or art should have a deeper meaning.  There is the joy of creativity, but for it to be art for the public, it should have a purpose beyond the artist’s joy.”

What does Uplifting mean to you?

Krista hesitates to assign a meaning to this artwork, because we each bring our own life experiences to it when we view it. She told me that some people see two people shaking hands. Others see one person reaching out to someone else who needs help. I see layers: human caring, spiritual symbolism and also new doors opening as we go through life.

What do you see?

The article headline: “Uplifting: art to inspire kindness”

We come full circle back to the headline of my photo essay. Krista hopes that her artwork will, in some small way, inspire people to reach out to one another with kindness. If you feel moved, please visit her benevolence website.

Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Krista Hepford (in the center, wearing a tool belt) and some of the many “angels” who helped her. (photographer not known)

“I hope you will take the inspiration you have from this artwork and go do some good.”

Krista Hepford
Uplifting, public art in Ashland, Oregon
Krista’s “thank you” board, located next to the Uplifting artwork. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

References:

Facebook page for Uplifting.

Hepford, Krista. Interview and personal communications, June 2021.

Public Arts Commission. Meeting minutes.