This Sunday, Nov. 5 at 3 p.m., Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann will take the podium in front of his orchestra for the very first time for a hometown audience. A 1963 graduate of Van Wert High School, Gerhardt grew up on Crawford Street, just across from the old Lincoln Jr. High School. He said he used to listen to the beat of the high school band as a young boy when they would march up and down his street. He would dream of someday being able to be a part of the band. He would go on to play the trumpet, but was unable to march because of polio.

But talk about overcoming challenges, Gerhardt would go on to Bowling Green State University to major in music education, ironically with a scholarship from the Saltzgaber Music Fund of The Van Wert County Foundation. In perusing old board minutes of The Van Wert County Foundation, I noticed they awarded Gary Lee Zimmerman a $750 scholarship to BGSU on Dec. 8, 1964. Now, 53 years later, Zimmermann will take the stage with the Canton Symphony Orchestra in the Van Werth County Foundation Saltzgaber Music Hall.

The concert is a duplication of his Saturday night performance with the Canton Symphony in the Zimmermann Symphony Hall in Canton, Ohio. That’s right- the Zimmermann Symphony Hall. Just three years ago, the city of Canton moved its symphony into a beautiful new facility named in honor of Gerhardt. This is what 37 years of loyal and talented leadership of an orchestra gets you!

Gerhardt was extremely pleased that the date worked for us because he really wanted to perform the fanfare-filled Tchaikovsky Symphony #4 for his hometown return. Also on the program is Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1; probably one of the most familiar piano concertos ever written. You will hear it and say, “Oh, I know this!” It’s been used many times on TV commercials and movies.

I encourage you to get into your seats a couple minutes before the start of the concert at 3 p.m. for a special presentation we will be making to Gerhardt in front of his orchestra. We want Gerhardt to know how proud we, his hometown, are of his enormous accomplishments in the world of music.

Gerhardt has conducted orchestras from Chicago to Atlanta and Warsaw to Paris. It’s a very impressive career he has had and I am so pleased we can now, finally, include Van Wert to his list of performance halls. With the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, we now have a hall worthy of the music he makes. I remember the letter Gerhardt wrote when we were at the beginning stages of dreaming of a performing arts center. This summer, I was able to show Gerhardt our performance hall and he was elated! His last memories of a performance hall were of Lincoln Auditorium.

It should be a special day as we welcome home one of Van Wert’s finest and recognize his accomplishments in the field of music. This concert is part of our Enrich Community Concert Series, sponsored by Unverferth Family Dentistry and Roger and Kay Okuley along with Central Insurance, E&R Trailer, Van Wert County Hospital, State Farm: Tisha Fast-agent, Taylor Auto Sales and Eaton.

The board of the Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation invites friends and class mates of Gerhardt’s to a reception in the First Federal Lecture Hall following the concert. Gerhardt looks forward to greeting classmates and friends he played in band with and had such great experiences while growing up in Van Wert. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the box office or that day one hour before the concert, which starts at 3 p.m.

One final note. You probably have noticed that the Times-Bulletin will start publishing on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I am told this will not change anything on the Arts & Entertainment page. I will still be writing my “Music in Van Wert” column each week and you will still be able to read it on Wednesdays. We wish the Times-Bulletin the best of luck and are glad we can still get the word out to you via the Times-Bulletin and the VW Independent.