This year the Lehighton Band celebrates its 150th anniversary.

For a century-and-a-half, it has been providing music with a variety from marches to show tunes to even country tunes at its concerts.

The anniversary kicks off with a concert at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Lehighton Area Middle School auditorium.

The special anniversary concert will be held in July when the band includes a selection during the event that was written in each decade of the band's existence.

That concert will be staged in the Lehighton Park Ampitheater as well as in Eurana Park, Weatherly, at dates to be announced.

Paul Smith, director of the band for nearly a third of the band's existence (49 years), points out that the band was organized in 1864, two years before Lehighton was incorporated as a borough.

During these 150 years, the band has played thousands of concerts, participated in untold numbers of parades and has produced some outstanding musicians. The band reflects in many ways the history and culture of Lehighton, a community noted for its love of music.

In the mid 1950s, the band purchased an unfinished garage on South Seventh Street which the members converted into a modern band hall. All of the work was done on weekends and evenings by the members themselves.

Throughout the years the band has performed at practically every historical event including impromtu concerts at the end of World War I, World War II and more recently the program held in the park after the 9/11 attacks. It was also a staple at the Lehighton Fair, playing in the afternoons during the harness racing and in the evenings providing music for the stage show.

The band has a number of individual success stories.

Dennis Seiwell, a Lehighton Area High School band member who went on to play in Paul McCartney's band Wings, always tells interviewers he got his start in the Lehighton Band.

Ronald "Bunny" Snyder played with the band during the Big Band Era and went on to play with the Dorsey Brothers Band, Ben Bernie and Vincent Lopez.

Norman Snyder was a member of the Fred Waring Band, while Irving Young was a member of the Frank Farnumil Orchestra when it introduced the Charleston craze in the Roaring Twenties.

Originally, the band was for men only and was called the Lehighton Men's Band. Smith said this changed about 1980 when women were invited into the band and the band started going under its official name, the Lehighton Band. Women have since made quite an impression. Both male and female soloists will be featured in Sunday's concert.

For 150 years the band endured.

When you hear them play, it's easy to understand why.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com