2016-11-01 / Spotlight

Perfect Harmony

Ned Diehl | Conductor, State College Municipal Band
Maggie Anderson | photos by Matt Fern

Since his high school conducting debut in the 1940s, Ned Deihl hasn’t stopped waving his baton. After several decades teaching at Penn State and directing the Blue Band, Deihl retired, but he didn’t rest on his laurels. He has been conducting the State College Area Municipal Band for 21 years. “They’re really great people, so dedicated,” he says of the volunteer band members. “They’re there because they really want to be there. It all culminates in a concert and they can feel like they really accomplished something.” That accomplishment will include the annual Veterans Day concert on Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. at Mount Nittany Middle School. The concert will feature a guest soloist, Chris Clark, who plays trombone in the Marine Band. Before the 32nd annual tribute to veterans, we caught up with the music man to hear about what, besides his wife Jan and their family, keeps him playing.

1. Passing the Baton
Deihl spent 32 years working at Penn State, both as a professor of music education and director of bands. During that time, he designed the famous “Floating Lions” pregame routine. “Since I retired in 1996, I’ve had the privilege of conducting the award-winning State College Area Municipal Band,” he says. “What a great retirement gig for me!”

2. Music Man
“I started with song flute, which is like a miniature clarinet, and I liked that so much I wanted to move on to clarinet,” says Deihl. Since fourth grade, he’s played the clarinet, including in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956. “The combat guys think I had it too easy,” he jokes. That’s also where he got into playing the saxophone, which he still plays in the Keystone Society of Swing band.

3. Teaching Tunes
“I really enjoy my handful of fabulous students,” Deihl says of his pupils, who range in age from teenagers to fellow retirees. “They all practice, they’re always prepared, they’re so eager,” he says. “I really look forward to it. After dinner having a lesson or two — it’s a good life.”

4. Phone It In
“I hope my grandchildren enjoy my coaching them on the telephone as much as I do,” Deihl says. Over speakerphone, he helped his granddaughter prepare for her Blue Band audition — and she got in. All of the Deihls’ five grandchildren play an instrument — one clarinet, three saxophones and one trumpet — and are lucky to be able to call in to their musical grandparents for speakerphone lessons.

5. On the Links
“Golf is my best recreation,” says the 85-year-old. (“85 is the new 65!” he quips.) From his home in Centre Hills, he has easy access to the links, though he says he’s down from walking all 18 to just four or five. “The views are great out there, big countryside and Mount Nittany — fresh air, exercise, solitude. I don’t keep score anymore.”

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