PEKIN - At one point in 1967, Steve Skinner, of Delavan, was a member simultaneously of three different municipal bands. In 1964, while still a student at Washington High School, he joined the Washington Municipal Band as a trombonist. The next year, he began his affiliation with Metamora’s municipal band. In 1967, he added Pekin’s municipal band to his growing list of musical commitments. He continued to play for the Pekin Municipal Band after the Washington and Metamora bands were dispersed the next year. In 1992, when the band’s director stepped down from his position, Skinner agreed to assume the role.
“It was two weeks before the start of our concert season,” Skinner recalled. “I said ‘I can get you through the year.’”
That year became decades. Skinner is still the director of what is now the Pekin Park Concert Band. He celebrated his 25th anniversary in that role during a concert Sunday night at Pekin’s Mineral Springs Park.
“It’s pretty amazing to work with Steve,” said Connie Moser, a Pekin Park Concert Band percussionist, public relations director and board member. “He’s so knowledgeable about music, but he also wants to add a lot of fun to our concerts. He puts his heart and soul into the concerts so we, as musicians, do the same. He’s easy-going, and he cares about all of us. He’s a phenomenal director.”
“The people in the band have become like family,” said the Honorable Liz Skinner, Skinner’s wife and the mayor of Delavan. “We’ve spent many wonderful Sunday evenings at Mineral Springs Park. He has loved every minute of his time as band director, and so have I.”
Prior to the concert, the Pekin Park Concert Band presented flowers to Mayor Skinner in gratitude for her support of her husband’s long tenure as director and her regular attendance of band concerts. Skinner received a commemorative plaque, a trophy, a new notebook for sheet music and a new baton.
Being director of the Pekin Park Concert Band is not a mere matter of standing on the stage in Mineral Springs Park on Sunday evenings in the summer, directing the ensemble, and introducing pieces. According to Keith Zimmerman, Pekin Park Concert Band saxophonist and a former band director, Skinner also chooses music for upcoming concerts, places it in folders for each musician, organizes and refiles all of it after each concert, hires musicians for the concert season and finds substitute musicians as needed.
“The salary he gets, if figured by the hours required, comes out to a couple of dollars an hour at best,” said Zimmerman. “For Steve, it’s a labor of love, and it’s a gift to the band and the audiences.”
“I love music,” said Skinner. “I love playing it, and I guess I love directing it, too. I’m humbled by the recognition I’m getting tonight. The musicians in the band are what make me look good. I just bring them together."
Originally called the Pekin Municipal Band, the Pekin Park Concert Band has been in existence since 1927. The band currently receives funding through local sponsors, with the Pekin Park District underwriting any remainder of a concert season’s expenses. The band holds free Sunday concerts at 7:30 p.m. in Mineral Springs Park until Aug. 13. In case of rain or excessive heat, the band performs in the nearby Miller Center.