Sunday marks last concert for longtime associate director

<p><strong>W</strong>ith a flourish of the conductor’s baton, about 90 musicians proceed into the selection.</p>
<p>The brass instruments swell, the percussion rumbles, the woodwinds flit and dance. Even in rehearsal, the members of the Greater Greenwood Community Band are focused and intent on getting the piece right.</p>
<p>For the past 14 years, it has been Ora Pemberton’s responsibility to lead them through the music. The job is one he’s relished.</p>[sc:text-divider text-divider-title="Story continues below gallery" ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery
<p>“What I have really appreciated is that when I have gone up to conduct, they seem to want to play for me,” he said. “I felt like they were right with me, and there were times they tried to help. That’s the making of a good band. They played for me, and when we finished, I felt good.”</p>
<p>Since 2005, Pemberton has been associate director of the Greenwood band, in addition to playing the French horn for select songs. Following the band’s Christmas concert on Sunday, he will set aside his conductor’s baton and focus solely on performing.</p>
<p>Stepping away from the podium will be strange, he said. But he’ll still be part of what he calls an extraordinary group, even if he’s not the one leading the group as conductor.</p>
<p>“I have mixed emotions. It’s been a long time there,” he said. “But I’ve always played; I never just hung my horn up. And I’ll continue to play. I’ll probably die with my horn in my hands.”</p>
<p>Pemberton has spent his life teaching and performing music, as well as leading other musicians. He has served as the music supervisor and department chair of bands at schools in Arlington, Zionsville, Beech Grove and Columbus. In addition, he was an instructor and director of instrumental music at Concord College in Athens, West Virginia.</p>
<p>Locally, Pemberton has been on the board of directors for the Butler University summer band camp, as well as the board of directors for the and on the Indianapolis Capital City Band Camp.</p>
<p>In 1983, he helped found the Columbus City Band, which he also directed for six years.</p>
<p>His introduction to the Greater Greenwood Community Band came through Ed Holman, who was the band’s director in the early 2000s. Holman came to play with the Columbus City Band, and invited Pemberton to come play in the Greenwood band if he had time.</p>
<p>“I did, and became a sort of associate director with him,” he said.</p>
<p>Over the years, and as new band directors came on, he continued to serve as conductor and an associate director to the group. He appreciated having a leadership position, but didn’t feel the need to be “the guy” in charge of the band, he said. He had already done that in his career, and was happy to share his experience with the group.</p>
<p>When Dirks retired in 2016, Randy Greenwell took over as director. Again, Pemberton helped lead the band side by side with him.</p>
<p>My first thought regarding Ora is that he is passionate about the band and loves it so much,” Greenwell said. “His dedication and support have been immeasurable to me. From day one, Ora was supportive, thoughtful and kind, which speaks to him as a person. He’s just that — a great human being.”</p>
<p>Over the years, Pemberton can point to dozens of good memories and one-of-a-kind experiences that made his time with band special.</p>
<p>A portion of the band was able to travel to the Netherlands in 2017, performing in small venues and larger concert halls across the country. Not only was playing to a new audience and interacting with fellow musicians unique, but the trip allowed members of the Greenwood band to better know each other and form a closer bond.</p>
<p>“The camaraderie was really, really exciting. It’s an altogether different atmosphere there, but people were really fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Pemberton said.</p>
<p>The opportunity to spice up some of their concerts has also been exciting as a conductor, he said.</p>
<p>The Christmas concert is unique among the band’s slate of shows. Along with the Halloween show, the concert features more pageantry and fun accents, such as costumes, visual effects and dancers, to entice audiences and make it a more interactive experience.</p>
<p>“We’ve been doing some things a little bit different. We don’t want to stay stagnant, so we’ve changed our programming and our performances somewhat. That brings on new ideas and something exciting,” Pemberton said.</p>
<p>This year’s concert will include a repertoire ranging from the dazzling version of “Stille Nacht,” a German version of “Silent Night” originally performed by Mannheim Steamroller full of special effects and percussion, to classics like “White Christmas.”</p>
<p>The 10-song concert will cover an array of styles and types of music, from classical to jazz to modern.</p>
<p>“The whole program is designed to be really entertaining. There will be something form everyone,” Pemberton said.</p>
<p>For Pemberton, the concert will serve as a challenging and fitting ending to his stint as conductor.</p>
<p>“I’ve had a really wonderful time with the band. People have treated me wonderfully. In turn, I hope I have participated in good experiences for them. We’ve had lots and lots of good times,” he said.</p>[sc:pullout-title pullout-title="If you go" ][sc:pullout-text-begin]<p><strong>Greater Greenwood Community Band Christmas Concert</strong></p>
<p>What: A special performance featuring classic Christmas music and new holiday favorites, topped off with a visit from Santa Claus himself.</p>
<p>When: 2 p.m. Sunday</p>
<p>Where: Greenwood Community High School, 615 Smith Valley Road</p>
<p>Admission: Free, though donations to support the band are always welcome</p>
<p><strong>Upcoming shows</strong></p>
<p>Feb. 23: Side by Side concert with Greenwood Community High School band, 5 p.m.</p>
<p>March 3: Warren Central Band Festival, 7 p.m.</p>
<p>April 19: Spring concert, 5 p.m.</p>
<p>May 31: Summer concert, 5 p.m.</p>[sc:pullout-text-end]