MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) — An 81-year-old Mitchell man has retired after 55 years as the city’s municipal band director.
Joe Pekas moved to Mitchell in 1962 to be a band director for the Mitchell School District. He was asked to be the director of the city’s municipal band in 1966, and he directed his final concert July 28.
“It feels real different. That’s the only word I can say is it’s real different. When you get done with a program like the one that we had, it was so good,” Pekas said.
Pekas used to be a part of a dance band named C.J. Rusken. Members of the Mitchell municipal band surprised him by playing some of C.J. Rusken’s music at his final concert for the municipal band.
“All of a sudden, I look back there and they’re all sitting in C.J. Rusken order back there playing, and they played for about 15 minutes. All those good old tunes that we used to play,” Pekas said.
Chuck Balcom has known Pekas for nearly 50 years. Balcom has been involved with both CJ. Rusken and the municipal band. He sings the praises of the outgoing director.
“He was a real music maestro. He’s a little bit humble talking about his own abilities, but he’s exceptional as a municipal band director in that he’s a very outstanding arranger, he’s a good composer of his own numbers and they’re well received all across the country,” Balcom said.
Pekas has arranged hundreds of pieces of music.
“And I’ll keep arranging. I love doing that. And I’ve got around 50 pieces of music that are already published,” Pekas said.
While the municipal band is done for the summer, Pekas is prepared to get his trumpet out next year if needed.
“By then, I’m sure they’ll have different things lined up. I even told them I’ll be happy to guest conduct any time, and I’ll play in the band too,” he said.
“He’s just been a fantastic friend, as well as a great musician to play with in our own band, and then in city band he’s been an outstanding conductor,” Balcolm said.
They don’t yet have a new municipal band director selected.