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Celebrating Musical Excellence: 50 Years of Wabash County Honors Band & Choir

Many remember the Wabash County Music Festival before it evolved into the Wabash County Honors Band & Choir. The Music Festival rotated between all the high schools in Wabash County, Northfield, Southwood, Wabash, and Manchester – there were no auditions, and all band and choir high school students participated. Once this program came to an end, one individual was determined not to let the music die.  


Howard Garver, President of the Wabash Valley Music Association (WVMA), envisioned taking the top students from each band and choir and created what is now known to all as Honors Band & Choir. In 1974, the Honors Band & Choir was formed, and Garver enlisted Bobb Keaffaber, Band Director at Southwood High School, for his help and wisdom with this new program.  


Wife to the late Bobb Keaffaber, Carol Davis, expresses how important the vision of this program was in 1974. She states, “When you’re in music, band or choir, you’re part of the group, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re good or bad – it makes you feel like you have something.” 


Son of Bobb Keaffaber, Mike Keaffaber, Superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Wabash County, was ten years old when Honors Band & Choir began and experienced the program as a young child, student, and administrator. He explains, “One of my fondest memories in high school is being a part of our school, but also being a part of the band, and really the big reason is just because of my dad being the director, but also being more my dad. I respected him and honored him, and he was my hero. I really appreciate the opportunity, and also Howard Garver for being able to get this program started 50 years ago.”  


From recalling memories of Bobb recruiting conductors from Purdue University and meals at the Honeywell House dining on Mrs. Honeywell’s china with conductors from across Indiana – all conversations led back to friendship and opportunities. Susan Keefer, Honors Band & Choir Coordinator since 1978, states, “It’s been a great program for the students, meeting a lot of different directors from all over the state in particular. We really focus on getting college directors coming in to work with our students.” Mike Keaffaber adds, “Honors Band & Choir gave us the opportunity to be able to meet new people, new adults, new directors, and also other students.”  


When Bobb passed in 1987, Howard and the WVMA commissioned a song for him for his impact in developing the Honors Band & Choir; this march was titled “Roll of Honor.” Carol states, “This program is such a great opportunity for the students. Music is everything. When you’re sad, there’s music, and when you’re happy, there’s music; there’s music all around. I hope they (students) understand what they have and continue to support it.” 


The Honors Band & Choir will mark its 50th year with its performance on Friday, March 8, 2024, at 7:30 p.m. at the Honeywell Center. Admission is free and open to the public; no ticket is required. In celebration of the 50-year legacy of this program, alumni will perform with the band and choir during the combined piece. A public reception with refreshments will take place in the Porter Lobby following the event. After the performance, former participants, guest directors, and county directors are invited to an alumni reception in Legacy Hall. 


As the 50th Anniversary is celebrated on March 8, please consider making a gift online to ensure the legacy of this unique program continues for years to come.  


For more information, please visit or call the Honeywell Box Office at 260.563.1102. This concert is sponsored in part by the Howard M. Garver Wabash Valley Music Association Endowment and the Larry and Anne (Garver) Curless Endowment for Honors Band & Choir. 


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