Pops conductor retiring, handing off baton

By Mary Hood
Fairhope Courier Intern
Posted 5/31/07

FAIRHOPE — After 10 years of conducting the Baldwin Pops Band, Joe Riemer is passing the baton.

Riemer has been the conductor for the community band since its beginning; he’s one of its founders. He has chosen the Sunset Series concert, June …

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Pops conductor retiring, handing off baton


FAIRHOPE — After 10 years of conducting the Baldwin Pops Band, Joe Riemer is passing the baton.

Riemer has been the conductor for the community band since its beginning; he’s one of its founders. He has chosen the Sunset Series concert, June 3, which also happens to be the Centennial Concert for the Baldwin Pops to step down from the conductor position.

“It’s just like any other retirement,” Riemer said. “It’s time to do it.”

In 1997, Riemer said he met a couple from Chattanooga where they had been a part of a community band. When they moved to Fairhope, they realized there was no community band and wanted to get one started.

The couple’s band in Chattanooga had been sponsored by the community college, so the couple went to Faulkner State Community College and approached Borden Morrow, director of the continuing education program.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Morrow said.

Morrow sat down with Riemer as well as Regina Bush and Steve Sims, and he said they began discussing the possibility of having a community band. Soon thereafter, they were given some money to help with start-up expenses.

Riemer, who also started and conducted the Mobile Pops band, said at first, everyone thought the band would only have about 35 or 40 members, and they would play just for their family and friends.

“We didn’t really know what the response would be,” Riemer said. “But immediately our band basically doubled that (size), and our audiences measured in the hundreds and the thousands.”

Riemer said the band attracts several thousand people for their Sunset Series concerts, and its Daphne Christmas concert draws in a crowd of about 1,200 to 1,500 people.

“It’s very gratifying to us to have that type of audience response in the county, and that’s really one of the things that has kept us going the past 10 years — aside from the fact that we’ve got a really really nice bunch of folks that play,” Riemer said.

The mission statement of the Baldwin Pops, Riemer said, is to provide quality music and entertainment “in a professional manner to the audiences of Baldwin County and to, hopefully in the process, add to our wonderful quality of life over here.”

Morrow said the Pops is a “wonderful integral part of the Eastern Shore.”

Riemer said it’s the quality of people in the band that he’s going to miss when he is no longer conductor, although he will remain with the band as a musician.

“I have a lot of mixed feelings because it’s just wonderful people that we deal with,” Riemer said.

He also admitted that, of course, he will miss conducting.

“Conducting is like a disease,” Riemer said. “You never get rid of it.”

Riemer has been conducting his whole working life and has been the band director at Davidson and Shaw high schools as well as Bay Minette Middle School and Baldwin County High School, he said.

He said he hopes to conduct some in the future for the Baldwin Pops. He will share the conductor position this upcoming year with Randy Davis and Roger Jones, who also have experience both with conducting with the Pops and other groups.

“This next year, they’ll be doing the bulk of the work, but we’ll divide it up that way,” Riemer said. “When the situation is right, we’ll have someone come in and assume the directorship, just one person, but with a community band like this it doesn’t have to be one person.”

Steve Sims, co-founder of the Baldwin Pops Band, conducted with Riemer for the first two years. He said he is sad to see Riemer step down from his position

“He’s a good guy, loves music, he’s been around it for a long time,” Sims said. “He’s just a great guy.”

Regina Bush, co-founder of the Baldwin Pops and long-time friend of Riemer hates to see him leave also.

“It breaks my heart,” Bush said. “It’ll be hard to follow in his footsteps.”

Bush said Riemer has great qualities that he has brought to the directorship.

“His enthusiasm, and of course, his musicianship, those are his two outstanding characteristics,” Bush said. “Besides that he has a lot of charisma.”

Bush said it’s going to be difficult for the band to see Riemer step down.

“Joe is so identified with the band, it’s going to be hard for the band when he leaves,” Bush said.

Linde Lynn, a member of the Pops, said the band has enjoyed having such an experienced and efficient conductor.

“I hope Joe realizes that the band as a whole is going to really miss him,” Lynn said. “He may undervalue his influence on the group.”

After Riemer steps down, he plans to spend time traveling with his wife, Mary Lou, and spending time with his two children and four grandchildren.