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Music enlivens Christmas celebration

Staff writer

As advertised, the annual Marion Christmas celebration had quirky collections — miniature rocky Main Streets with diminutive store fronts and penguins.

The music was unexpected. Former Hillsboro High School band director Gregg Walker played saxophone and flute outside of Heerey Real Estate. He was playing with accompaniment to his own Christmas album, which he recorded this past week in his home studio at 1743 Jade Road, Hillsboro.

Walker has experience with many different types of venues. He paid his way through Washburn College playing gigs with a 10-piece band in Topeka clubs.

“I was a jazz guy, but I could fit in with what they were doing,” Walker said.

It was during the late 1970s when a brass section of trumpet, trombone, and saxophone was the rage in rock music. He played with a Chicago-style band, and it was a lucrative job for the time.

“We made $100 a night each person,” Walker said. “It didn’t last though.”

From Washburn, Walker moved onto graduate school at University of North Texas. He got his first band director job in Texas. The school was large enough where he had 150 students in the band.

However, when his mother fell ill in Topeka he moved back home and took a director job at Rossville High School. The band featured seven students.

He later moved on to Inman and then Hillsboro. After he left the band director position in Hillsboro — he said it was just time for him to go — he had an opportunity to start a studio. He had purchased his own recording equipment himself, forgoing the debt that plagues some recording operations. He enlisted friend Carey Hoffman to help him get the studio set up.

For now, Walker’s current gig is hit and miss. He had four people in the studio over the past couple weeks recording Christmas music. Other times, he has plenty of studio time available.

His eventual goal is to build a larger full studio, converting a barn, and bed and breakfast on his land in the country. He envisions friends from Los Angeles and New York meeting in the middle in Kansas.

“It’s sort of a dream,” Walker said. “Sometimes you need to get away to focus.”

On the other side of Main Street, the Knocknasheegan Celtic Band played. They performed Christmas carols as well as traditional Irish songs.

The nine-piece band features two flutes, guitar, banjo, mandolin, Irish bouzouki, accordion, drums, and four vocalists, with some members doing more than one thing.

The one theatrical piece to their show was Jonathan Kordt playing a mandolin solo behind his head.

Kordt and his sister Mimi, who plays banjo, have both played with the Wichita based band for two years. Family members introduced them to the band who found out they played instruments.

They play all over Kansas and their schedule has increased with the holiday season.

“I love this town,” Jonathan Kordt said of Marion. “It’s so cool, unique. It’s calm here.”

Last modified Dec. 15, 2011

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