For many years high school band graduates begged retired high school director Wes Humphrey to develop an adult band. They missed playing their instruments, and they missed the camaraderie of playing in a band. In 1998 Wes founded the Lake Havasu Symphonic Winds to provide an adult community concert band for Lake Havasu City. The group began rehearsing once a week on Thursdays in the high school band room, and their first performance was in the Spring of 1999.
During the 2002-2003 season the group changed its name to the River City Band, in an effort to help distinguish it from the Lake Havasu City Orchestra. Yet, that proved to be even more confusing to people. Several people suggested to Wes "Go back to the Symphonic Winds name, and put your photo in the ads. Then we'll know it's your group." Wes followed that advice - both halves - for many years.
At first all winds players were welcome, but it was difficult to balance the sound when there were a lot more of one instrument than others. So, Wes adopted the "wind ensemble" band model for the Winds. There would only be one player for each musical part. Most arrangements have 30 to 35 distinct parts, so the band is always between 30 and 35 musicians. Although the Winds was designed to be an adult band, when an adult can't be found the open seat is filled with an advanced high school musician. The age span of the musicians has been as much as 16 to 90 some years! What all ages have in common is a love of playing music in a band.
Through the years the Winds have performed at least two concerts a year, and as many as eight. The early concerts were predominately classical concert band arrangements, but the Havasu's musical tastes have changed through the years. Current audiences enjoy a concert designed around as theme. The Winds have performed Halloween, Christmas, Bi-Centennial, and April Fool's concerts, as well as Patriotic, Broadway, Big Band/Jazz, and old fashioned Concert in Park concerts.
The home venue for the Winds is the Performing Arts Center at Lake Havasu High School, originally called the Auditorium. But the Winds have gone out into the community at times. The group has performed at A Taste of Havasu, the London Bridge Beach Stage, the Refuge, and Windsor Park for one of the Vietnam Wall visits.
Most concerts primarily feature the Winds, but they have also performed concerts with the Lake Havasu Regional Orchestra, the Kingman Concert Band, and the Lake Havasu Community Choir. The Noteworthy Ladies Barbershop Quarter performed with the Winds in the early 2000's, and the Noel Carolers have participated in recent Christmas concerts. En Croix Ballet has danced with the Winds, as has the Lake Havasu High School Band's Flag Team. Numerous guests conductors and musicians have performed with the Winds, including local vocalists Staci Wells, Steve Wayman, and Jason Fallis.
Wes conducted the Winds until his death in May 2012. Kim Wilson was selected as the next Winds conductor in August 2012.
Wes Humphrey (1928-2012)
Wes was born and raised in Indiana, and he graduated from Indiana University with a B.S. and M.S. in Secondary School Administration. Wes taught band and choir in Indiana and Sierra Vista, Arizona as well as at Lake Havasu High School from 1973-1989. He acted in community theater productions, founded the Lake Havasu Regional Orchestra, the West Winds Dance Band, and Lake Havasu Symphonic Winds. He played piano with the Lenny Hero Dance Band, as well as entertained as a solo pianist and with his jazz trio. In later years Wes played French Horn with the Regional Orchestra and with the Top Brass Quintet.