About

First State Symphonic Band

Image courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library

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About FSSB

The Band’s mission is to provide musical educational experiences to our members and to the public through the performance of high-quality concerts, both public and charitable, at venues such as public parks, retirement homes, and churches.

To enhance the audiences’ understanding and appreciation of our music, both narrative and written program notes are given at our concerts.

FSSB Members at Performances

History

The First State Symphonic Band traces its origins back to the early 1950s, when the DuPont Co. employees started a company concert band. Nearly three decades later, the band incorporated under the moniker you recognize today. Read on to discover highlights from First State Symphonic Band over the last 70 years.

DuPont Co. Band

1951

In 1951, the employees of the DuPont Co. started a company concert band. One of the first concerts was held outdoors on the Hagley Museum grounds for guests at the DuPont Company’s 150th anniversary on July 18, 1952.

FSSB is Born

1978

When corporate sponsorship was withdrawn in 1978, the band incorporated under its current name, The First State Symphonic Band, Inc., as a non-profit organization. With members of the old band forming the core of the new organization, FSSB inherited the extensive music library from the DuPont band, as well as percussion and wind instruments.

New Music Director

2000

Jonathan Wittman was the Principal Trumpet with FSSB since 1979 and became the music director in 2000, a position he holds to the present day. FSSB has benefited and grown from Jonathan’s musical talent, teaching, and his skill for matching challenging music selections to the band. Our concert repertoire includes a variety of music that allows the band to demonstrate its talent.

FSSB Today

2018 – Present

First State Symphonic Band celebrates its 40th anniversary. Looking back on our 40 years, we’ve performed for King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden during the 375th anniversary of the Swedes landing on the Christina River, performed across all three counties of Delaware, and performed concerts dedicated to Charter and long-term members.  We look forward to many more years of making great music to delight audiences, making friends, and making fun memories.

Meet the Conductor

Jonathan Wittman

Mr. Wittman has led the FSSB as Musical Director since 1999. He is a native of Delaware and received his Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music and Trumpet Performance degrees at the University of Delaware.

He taught at several schools in New Castle County and became Director of Bands at Newark High School in 2005. Mr. Wittman was Principal Trumpet of the First State Symphonic Band for 20 years before assuming the post of Musical Director. We are fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated educator at the podium.

Jon Wittman

Meet the Conductor

Jonathan Wittman

Mr. Wittman has led the FSSB as Musical Director since 1999. He is a native of Delaware and received his Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music and Trumpet Performance degrees at the University of Delaware.

He taught at several schools in New Castle County and became Director of Bands at Newark High School in 2005. Mr. Wittman was Principal Trumpet of the First State Symphonic Band for 20 years before assuming the post of Musical Director. We are fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated educator at the podium.

Board of Directors

Melinda Gregory

Melinda Gregory

President

Melinda (clarinet) joined the band in 2009 and has served on the board since 2010, beginning as 2nd Vice-President and then President since 2011. “I joined the band to learn, contribute to the group, and to challenge myself.”

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“Music is a skill and hobby that lets me escape, explore, and experience. It’s a way to express myself as an individual and also contribute and connect with others.” In high school, she performed with the concert band, marching band, and small ensembles under the direction of Mr. Ronald Shomo. Melinda performed twice with the All American Youth Honor Musicians Band, touring Greece and Mexico/Acapulco, performed with a Jewish folk music group, is a musician and past board member of the Newark Community Band since 2006, is an active member of the Dover High School Senator Alumni Marching Band, and a Charter member of the Silver Keys Clarinet Quartet.

Kaitlyn Wittman

Kaitlyn Wittman

Vice President

Kaitlyn (trumpet) has been attending FSSB concerts since she was born. She is a 2003 Newark High School graduate and was a member of the Delaware All-State Concert Bands, Jazz Bands, and Women’s Choral Ensemble throughout middle and high school.

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As a high school senior, she was selected to be a part of the All-Eastern Jazz Ensemble. She filled in for concerts when needed for the First State Symphonic Band while in college. She became an “official” member in the summer of 2007 after graduating from the University of Delaware with her Bachelor’s degree in Instrumental Music Education and a concentration in trumpet performance. She later received her Master’s degree in Secondary Guidance and School Counseling from Wilmington University in 2013. She is the director of bands at Aberdeen High School in Harford County, Maryland, a position she has held for the past ten years and considers it a privilege to instill in her students a love and passion for music. Kaitlyn is honored to serve as trumpet section leader and as 2nd vice-president on the FSSB board.

Jackie Keoughan

Jackie Keoughan

Vice President

Jackie (piccolo/flute) joined the band in 1996 and has served as President, a Board Director, and currently serves as the First Vice-President/Concert Coordinator. She began her music career at the age of eight, playing in her grade school and high school bands.

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Jackie also played in the Fairfield, IL, Community Band. After graduating from high school, she toured Europe with the School Band/School Chorus of America. During her college years, Jackie performed with the St. Mary-of-the-Woods College Orchestra and played in pit bands for college productions. She taught flute, piccolo, and piano for several years at Mal’s Music and Accent Music in the Wilmington, DE, area. Additionally, she played flute with her church choir for 35 years and continues to play at various churches in the Wilmington area. Currently, Jackie is a member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of the University of DE Concert Band, the OLLI Flute Choir, and a newly-formed flute quartet, Just Flutin’. Playing in and serving on the Board of the First State Symphonic Band is a continuation of the love of music instilled in Jackie at a young age.

Gary Oberparleiter

Gary Oberparleiter

Secretary

Gary is a professional brass instructor and trumpet player based out of Middletown, DE. He began playing trumpet at the age of 13 and attended the University of Southern California, where he studied Jazz Performance with a Trumpet Emphasis.

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Over the past 20 years, Gary has performed regularly with many artists and groups in the Mid-Atlantic region in NYC, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and Wilmington, among others. Currently, Gary performs with the First State Symphonic Band, Newark Symphony Orchestra, The Blues Brothers Revue and Tribute Band, and the Big House Band. Gary serves on the Board of Directors for the First State Symphonic Band and teaches brass at Music & Arts in Middletown and Delaware Arts Conservatory in Bear.

Bill Hardam

Bill Hardam

Treasurer

Bill (percussion) is the band’s treasurer. He joined the band in 1967 or 1968, became a board member in 2007, and the treasurer in 2008. Bill started out playing the drums in the 4th grade. “Everyone was required to take music lessons; wearing dental braces at the time made using my hands the best choice.”

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After finishing college at Penn State, graduate school at Caltech, and a foreign postdoctoral fellowship, a chance meeting with an old high school friend and the conductor of the Wilmington Symphony led Bill to being drafted to play cymbals for the orchestra. There he met fellow percussionist Don Huntley who convinced him to join the employees’ band at the DuPont Company, which later became The First State Symphonic Band in 1978.

Jeff Geshay

Jeff Geshay

Director

Jeff began his trombone career in the 5th grade. Trombone was recommended to him by the band teacher because of his long arms and the perceived ability to reach 7th position with the slide. 

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But Jeff actually pursued it because of a favorite midwest trombone player named Bill Pearce. Pearce’s silky smooth jazz stylings of hymns and gospel songs provided the inspiration to also pursue a music major with a trombone emphasis. Jeff joined the band for the spring concert season in 2018.

 

Curt Fisher

Curt Fisher

Past President & Assistant Treasurer

Curt (percussion) is a director and former president of the band. He joined the band around 12 years ago “because my daughter was playing in the band. . . all 3 of my daughters have played with us at one time or another.” 

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“I hadn’t ever played percussion before joining FSSB, but was persuaded by another member to give it a try.”

Rik Raphael

Rik Raphael

Director

Rik Raphael, a Delaware native, played trumpet in marching, concert, and symphonic bands in elementary, junior high, and high school. After high school, Rik played very little until 2001. 

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Since rediscovering the trumpet, Rik has played in many community-based groups, including the Wilmington Community Orchestra, three groups at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, two other local community bands, and many church ensembles. Rik took up the euphonium in early 2017 and performs with both instruments.

Sabra Williams Meadows

Sabra Williams Meadows

Director

Sabra joined First State Symphonic Band in 2012 and was voted onto the Board of Directors in 2014 to serve as Director and Website Coordinator. She has been playing flute for almost 30 years and is grateful for the opportunity to continue to perform and share music with the Delaware community. 

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She lives in Pennsylvania and works as a systems analyst with United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey.

Memorial Funds

If you are interested in starting a memorial fund for a loved one, use the Contact Us form (and be sure to include your name and phone number). Memorial funds are used by the band as directed, such as for the purchase of new music, to help with operating costs, to purchase new percussion equipment, etc. It’s a nice way to honor a loved one who was a musician or a concert band music fan.

THE WAYNE ROBBINS

Memorial Fund

Wayne Thomas Robbins (tuba) passed away at age 65 on February 23, 2011. Wayne studied music at St. Andrews University in Scotland and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969.

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He served in the US Navy Nuclear Power Program in California, attaining the rank of Lieutenant. Wayne and his wife Joyce moved to Wilmington, DE, where he worked for the DuPont Company until his retirement in 2004. He enjoyed music, military history, traveling, and attending classic car shows. Wayne is remembered as a faithful member of the tuba section, having been a member of the First State Symphonic Band for over 30 years.

John I & Catherine Hughes

Memorial Fund

John I. Hughes (clarinet), passed away at age 94 in 2013. With more than 60 years of continuous service, John was one of the band’s longest-serving members. John was born in 1919 in Wisconsin and was married to Catherine for 68 years.

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John earned a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. He worked at the DuPont Company for 40 years in polychemicals, plastics, and development, where he was a venture manager. John played clarinet since he was 10 years old. In junior and senior high school, he took lessons from Orlando Teschion, renowned clarinetist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York City. He was a concertmaster of the Univeristy of Minnesota concert band during his college years, and was a charter member and concertmaster of the DuPont Employees Concert Band (predecessor to the FSSB). John was a charter member of the First State Symphonic Band, playing continuously since it began in 1978. He played clarinet at his church and at chapel services at Cokesbury Village where he resided. John is remembered for his talent, professionalism, and years of dedication to the band.

The Rosina and Dean Carter Music Fund

for the First State Symphonic Band

This fund was established in 2019 by Katharine Carter Kerrane and Kevin Kerrane to thank and honor Katharine’s parents, Rosina and Dean Carter. 

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,The funds are to be used to purchase music for the First State Symphonic Band by the music director. 

Dean (1922-2013) and Rosina (b. 1927) have been lifelong supporters of the visual and performing arts.  Dean taught sculpture, drawing and art appreciation at Virginia Tech from 1950-1992, and was the founding head of the Art Department. He and Rosina established a scholarship at Virginia Tech for outstanding students in the visual arts. Rosina has been an enthusiastic volunteer in the community and an active member of the local weaver’s guild.   

They both appreciated music.  They were season ticket holders to the Roanoke, Virginia Symphony, and Rosina continues to attend Roanoke Symphony concerts as well as musical performances at Virginia Tech.  Dean served on the music committee of the United Methodist Church of Blacksburg for many years.   Dean and Rosina enjoyed attending First State Symphonic Band concerts when visiting in Delaware.  Katharine has been a member of the First State Symphonic Band’s flute section since 1982.

Dean, in particular, loved opera.  He said it had everything–music, drama, and spectacle.  He loved trumpet voluntaries and brass choirs, often coming home from church singing or whistling the anthem or closing hymn.  The two of them supported and encouraged the artistic endeavors of all five of their children.  This fund honors them for their love of all the arts, but most especially for their support of music. 

THE BOB & PEG ROHS

Memorial Fund

Peg and Bob Rohs were the parents of Tim Rohs, a long-time FSSB tenor sax player.  They always enjoyed attending FSSB concerts and attended them from when Tim began playing with the band in 1992 until their health made them unable to shortly before Bob’s death.

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Peg Rohs was born in Philadelphia and came to Delaware to be an elementary school teacher after earning her bachelor’s degree.  She stopped teaching to raise her son, but kept active in the PTA and as a volunteer.  When her son was grown, she worked in retail and also worked in daycare.   In addition to FSSB concerts, she enjoyed Broadway shows, the beach, and gardening. 

 

Bob Rohs was born in New York City.  He received degrees in chemistry and management.  After serving in the army at what was then the Aberdeen Army Chemical Center, he came to Delaware to work for DuPont.   He took early retirement to work towards a PhD. in marketing.  He taught marketing at the University of Delaware.  An avid stamp collector, after retiring from teaching he worked at the Rockland, DE post office.  He also enjoyed big band music and classic toy trains. 

President’s Note:
Mr. and Mrs. Rohs never missed a concert, and Mrs. Rohs never missed an opportunity to make a donation and pick up a music cd.  They were supporters of the band, and we’ll miss seeing this couple in our audience.

Timothy J. Best, JR.

Memorial Fund

The parents and family of Timothy J. Best, Jr. honor him for his love of music. Timothy played the trombone in high school and enjoyed classical music that had a strong brass presence. Timothy also enjoyed playing traditional marches. FSSB is honored to play music in memory of Timothy, and we enjoy seeing his parents and family in the audience.

Have Questions or Need Further Assistance?

Contact us to submit your questions, and we’ll be in touch soon!