History
John Walter, Founder

John Walter, Founder


 

Mr. John Walter, former director of the Whitehall School District in Pennsylvania, retired to Avalon, NJ and on March 5, 1996, placed an advertisement in the local newspapers inviting musicians to “get together and play for fun.”  Thirty-five musicians attended this meeting, forming the nucleus of a new community concert band, the first in Cape May County, NJ.

John Walter was a big supporter of the local community, so he chose a name for the band, the Middle Township Community Band, to emphasize the band’s connection to the community and to recognize the efforts of Mike Voll, the mayor of Middle Township, to sponsor this new organization.  The band first rehearsed in what is now the Clarence Davies Sports Complex and later in Historic Goshen School.

By 1998, the band had developed enough of a reputation to get the gig that John Walter most coveted–the Cape May Bandstand.  He even bought a new tuba in anticipation of the band’s first paid concert.  Unfortunately, he was not feeling well as the band prepared the stage for their concert on September 2, 1998, and he passed away before the concert started.

For the next two years, the concert band relied on other band members to direct the band.  Music educators Mike Denice, Nan LaCorte, John Drechen, Bob Miller, and Linda McDonald all stepped up to help out while the band searched for a permanent director.

In early 2000, Dan Gilliam, Jr. became the band’s conductor.  He was a local resident with a degree in music education.  That same year, the band voted to rename itself the John Walter Cape Community Band to honor its founder.

In 2002, the band recruited a retired high school conductor, Chris Arots, to direct the band.  By this time, the band was financially solvent on its own.  For the next five years, the band performed at venues throughout Cape May County as well as Ocean and Cumberland Counties.

Chris Arots, June 2005

Chris Arots, June 2005

Dutch Ludwig, August 2008

Dutch Ludwig, August 2008

Dr. John Curtis, 2015

Dr. John Curtis, 2015

 

When Richard “Dutch” Ludwig took over the band in 2007, he brought a focus on big band tunes that attracted talented musicians who enjoyed playing ad lib solos.  Dutch was known for directing award-winning bands with the highest quality standards, and he brought that focus on quality to the John Walter Band.

When a medical condition forced Dutch to step down in 2014, the band recruited its next director, Dr. John Curtis.  Under his leadership, the band grew to its largest size ever.  In addition to performing at the Cape May Bandstand, the band expanded to major new concert venues under Dr. Curtis’ direction, including the Cape May County Zoo in Middle Township and Byrne Plaza in Wildwood.

In 2016, the John Walter Cape Community Band started rehearsing year-round at Lower Cape May Regional High School.  That same year, the band’s president, Bill Winter, initiated several new outreach programs to support the community, including the Play It Again program, scholarships, a music excellence initiative for local band students, and collecting food at select concerts for local area food banks.  These highly successful initiatives have helped the local community and greatly increased the number of students participating in the band.

2021 marks the beginning of Dominic Scalfaro’s tenure as musical director, and the band is grateful to have him as our conductor.  The John Walter Band is composed of volunteer musicians of various ages and skill levels … all with common goals: a love of performing music to entertain others, to encourage and support music education, and to be responsible citizens within the community.  Musical styles include marches, Broadway and movie show tunes, contemporary, and jazz.  New members, including those who have not played for many years, are urged to participate.  There are no auditions.

As a 501(c)3 corporation, the band is non-profit.  Funding has been made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts / Department of State, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Cape May County Board of County Commissioners through the Division of Culture & Heritage.