Bringing Marching Band legacy full circle
As a tuba player himself, Clarence Assenheimer may have had a fondness in his heart for low brass instruments that he passed down to his son, Paul.
Clarence’s multiple duties in the music department over his 26 years at Heidelberg included marching band director. Upon his retirement in 1974, Clarence was quoted in the alumni magazine: “It wasn’t easy. We didn’t have all the canned material that is available to bands today; I had to write all the material for the band.”
There also was a shortage of tuba players. So Clarence enlisted then-high school student Paul to play with the Heidelberg band. “Dad could be pretty creative,” Paul said. “He ‘asked’ me to help him out and play with the Heidelberg band, so on Friday nights I’d play with the Columbian High School band and on Saturdays with the Heidelberg band.
“You might say I had ‘early admittance’ to the tuba section.”
Fast forward three-plus decades and today’s Heidelberg Marching Band also faced challenges, albeit much different in nature. So when Paul and his wife, Kay (Gamble) Assenheimer, both Class of ’60, were approached earlier this year about supporting the Strike Up the Bands campaign, they didn’t hesitate.
The Assenheimers have long been supporters of Heidelberg on many levels with special interest in athletics and music. They’ve also been actively involved in their Class of ’60 reunion committee to endow the Heidelberg Archives and in the Fellows Organization, for which Paul served as president. Their participation on the Strike Up the Bands campaign committee, along with a generous leadership gift toward the $500,000 campaign goal, was an easy decision.
“We were thrilled about the leadership and the epiphany of the Marching Band just sounded really exciting to us,” Paul said. “It was also an opportunity to lend our support to an effort in memory of my dad. The two kind of correlate.”
He added, “My father would be really pleased to see this renaissance of the Marching Band. Jon Waters is so creative and energetic.”
Although they live in Lima, the Assenheimers get to campus for games and events several times every year. When they came to football games last fall, they couldn’t help but notice the big changes in the game-day environment, thanks in large part to the Marching Band.
“We could just feel it last fall as we observed the direction the band was going,” Kay said. “It was an uplifting experience that radiated out to the whole campus.”
There’s irony in the fact that Jon Waters’s specialty is also the tuba. “I think of both Jon and my dad in a way as pioneers – just in different centuries,” Paul reflected.
Kay and Paul decided to designate their gift to two areas of need: uniforms for the Marching Band’s “pioneers” – students who took a leap of faith last year when Jon arrived and continued on with the band this year – and the purchase of three tubas. This “gang of 20 is a very special group,” he said.
Today, these retired educators will be in the stands when the Marching Band debuts their new uniforms today. “We’ll be pretty excited. It’s going to be really neat,” Kay said.
Their alma mater will be cheering right along with them in gratitude for their generous support of the Marching Band.