Bach ready to bid goodbye

Katie Kowalski,
Posted 6/20/17

Some summer vacations may finally be in the future for Karl F. Bach, who for nearly two decades has been leading the Port Townsend Summer Band. He’s now entering his final season before retiring as …

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Bach ready to bid goodbye


Some summer vacations may finally be in the future for Karl F. Bach, who for nearly two decades has been leading the Port Townsend Summer Band. He’s now entering his final season before retiring as its conductor.

“In a way, I’m ready,” said Bach, who has been leading the band since 2001. “I’ve worked hard to keep the band going since I took over.”

The first concert of the season, on Sunday, June 25, also marks the band’s 25th anniversary, and many of the musicians playing have been part of the band since its inception.

“I’m grateful to the community for its support of the band,” said Bach, who is leading the musical ensemble in concerts through the end of the year before passing the baton to longtime member Miles Vokurka.

“The band will be in very good hands,” he said. 


The Port Townsend Summer Band formed in July 1993. Under the direction of E.J. Gaede, a group of wind players from the Port Townsend Orchestra put on its first concert at Chetzemoka Park. “And we’ve been doing that ever since,” said Bach.

Bach joined the band and became its conductor in 2001.

The band has established itself as part of the musical fabric of the Port Townsend community, Bach said.

Along with its concert series at Chetzemoka Park, the Port Townsend Summer Band performs on holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day, and at events like the Uptown Street Fair. Most recently, the band performed at the groundbreaking for the new Port Townsend elementary school, Salish Coast Elementary, on June 16.

“The band is an integral part of the community,” said Bach. “We serve the community musically.”

Bach said the band is one of the many musical groups that help make Port Townsend, Port Townsend. “This town is ripe with talent,” he said, listing not only musical talent but also that of artists, authors, poets, playwrights and shipwrights.

“There’s so much talent of all varieties in this town, and the band is just part of that,” he said, calling Port Townsend “a cultural gem.”


Bach, who received his bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s in teaching, had a career in the U.S. Navy, in which he served as a vocalist, percussionist and band administrator; he retired in 1974 as a senior chief petty officer.

He’s also a composer, and has composed nearly a dozen pieces, many of which have been performed by the band.

“I guess, being the conductor, I choose the music we play – so I could do my own stuff,” he said.

Many of the pieces he’s written have stories behind them, he said.

In his early years as conductor he wrote a piece called “Port Townsend March,” which was dedicated to the band. At the concert in which the piece premiered were two drummers: Bob Rutenbeck, the oldest band member who was a Navy drummer in World War II, and Ben Krabill, the youngest, and at that time a student of Bach’s.

“Bob said to Ben, ‘Mr. Bach ought to write a march for us,’” Bach recalled, “so I wrote a march called ‘March for Ben and Bob.’”

They’re going to play that piece again on July 30 at a Chetzemoka concert, which also is the same day of Rutenbeck’s memorial service. Rutenbeck died on May 17 at the age of 96.

“He was a dear man; I loved him,” said Bach. “I’m going to dedicate that concert in his memory,” said Bach, noting that Krabill is to join in for that performance.


The 25th anniversary concert on June 25 is to feature an appearance by Port Townsend’s mayor, Deborah Stinson, who is to make a special presentation to the band, Bach said. He’s chosen a variety of music, including George and Ira Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band,” the overture to Otto Nicolai’s opera “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “Navy Bugler’s Band Call March” by Bach and many other pieces. The summer season includes two more concerts at Chetzemoka along with other community performances.

Bach noted how grateful he is for the continued support that comes from individuals, the Port Townsend Arts Commission and Arts Guild, and more than a dozen organizations and businesses.

“Also, I’m grateful for the people in the band who have been very loyal,” he said.

What’s next for Bach? Probably some more composing, he said, and hopefully a summer vacation.

“I’m still active in my church and with the Legion,” he said, “and I have to play bridge on Mondays.”


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