Ken Dahleen and the Big Band Staff perform during the 2012 Summer Concert Series. File photo

Ken Dahleen opens the 14th season of Idyllwild’s Summer Concerts, the first on the Fourth of July, with his Big Band Staff.

Dahleen and his board of directors have been providing free summer concerts since 2000, when Pete Capparelli and Vic Sirkin donated what is now the Village Centre shopping mall property for the first concert season. “We started with four concerts that year,” said Dahleen. “For our first concert we had about 200 people and over that summer the number of attendees grew. We knew then people were interested.”

Over 13 seasons, at Village Centre, the State Park and now at the Idyllwild Community Center site, interest and attendance has continued to grow, with some of the concerts over the last two seasons drawing as many as 1,200 people.

For his concert on the Fourth, Dahleen plans a big-band patriotic salute with such staples of concert band fare as “Stars and Stripes Forever” and other John Phillip Sousa favorites, a special arrangement of “God Bless the U.S.A.,” and a patriotic medley. In addition, Dahleen will focus on New York with an arrangement written for BBS, “A Broadway Century,” as well as George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” with Dahleen, a clarinetist, beginning the piece with the famous clarinet intro. The band then moves on to Hollywood with a Maynard Ferguson arrangement of John William’s “Superman” and, just for fun, “Salt Peanuts” from Super Sax.

Troy Clarke, Sinatra-esque crooner with Ken Dahleen and the Big Band Staff. Photo courtesy of Troy Clarke

The band then segues to Ole Blue Eyes, with some Frank Sinatra favorites such as “Come Fly With Me,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Fly Me to the Moon” and “One For My Baby,” all featuring the smooth vocals of desert crooner Troy Clarke. Clarke said this will be his first performance in Idyllwild, although he and Dahleen have worked together in the past. “It’s always great performing with Ken’s band,” said Clarkem, who will also be featured in the patriotic medley.

Dahleen brings a passion for big bands to the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series. He has played clarinet since age 5, graduating through a series of ensembles headed by an early mentor, Cal Caugherty, until leaving high school for a stint in the Marine Corps as a professional musician.

In Idyllwild since 1982, Dahleen had played in many bands throughout the area — concert, big-band and jazz ensembles.

Each year, he recounted, beginning in March and April, he and other members of BBS began getting calls to play in summer concerts in parks and recreation district venues throughout the county. “I kept thinking we should have something like that in Idyllwild,” he remembered. “I broached the idea to some of our local notables in 2000, and they jumped on the idea, agreeing to fund the initial series.”

The rest is history. As to funding, each year Dahleen and board begin the season on a prayer, lacking the full $20,000 plus budget to fund the season. Anyone wishing to become a donor or sponsor may contact Dahleen at (951) 659-2229.