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Susquehanna Life

Life Around the River - Winter 2015

Nov 18, 2015 06:57AM ● By Erica Shames

When big musical names come to the area, trumpet player Dale Orris is one of the first to be called to play along. He has shared the stage with The Temptations, Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin, and is affiliated with multiple area bands and orchestras. “I play a lot of different types of music,” explained Orris.

A native of Middleburg, Pa., and graduate of Susquehanna University, Dale has played the trumpet for 54 years, positively contributing to the area’s musical heritage. After college, he was hired by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and traveled the world during the late 1970s.  “One of my favorite places was out in Los Angeles; it was one of the only places we sat down and stayed for a while,” Orris recalls. The band played at President Carter’s inauguration, honoring Carter with “Moonlight Serenade,” the band’s theme song. Later, as a participant of the Buddy Rich Big Band, Orris played on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and on the steps of the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland.

Orris’ enthusiasm for music, demonstrated in classrooms in Lewisburg, Williamsport, and at Bucknell University, and on the field with school marching bands, has most likely influenced Lewisburg’s high level of music education. In fact, Lewisburg has been designated One of the Best Communities for Music Education by National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM Foundation) for five years. “Lewisburg is really a school district for the arts,” Orris noted. “There’s a lot of community support, and that means a lot when it comes to [earning] these types of awards.” He attributes the accolade to the support of the parents and the surrounding community.

To hear Orris’ work, check out the album, “The Direct Disc Sound of The Glenn Miller Orchestra,” and local music ensembles including the River City Blues Big Band, Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra, Williamsport Symphony Orchestra and State College’s Zeropoint Big Band. In December, Orris will play with Manheim Steamroller in Baltimore and Wilmington, De.

Written by Becky Chambers 

Independents make a comeback

Independent bookstores like Aaron’s Books in Lititz, D.J. Ernst Books in Selinsgrove and Mondragon Books in Lewisburg are contributing to the resurgence of independent bookstores throughout the nation.

According to the American Booksellers Association, over the past five years membership has increased approximately 58 percent, with a total of 2,227 independent bookstores throughout the U.S.

These retailers have become more than just places to find a good book; they are meeting places where members of the community gather to discuss everything from local government elections to art.  When asked about the bond between Aaron’s Books and the Lititz community, Todd Dickinson, co-owner, said, “We are grateful to be in Lititz. This community has embraced us since we opened 10 years ago, and it is the only place we can imagine Aaron’s Books to be. The personality of an independent bookstore affects the community it is in, and the community helps shape the bookstore. Our store would be very different in Harrisburg, York, Elizabethtown or anywhere else in the region.”

D.J. Ernst Books, which opened in 1975, features books on local history and the classics, enriching the culture of the Selinsgrove community. “What I really try to focus on is great literature,” explained Ernst. “I even had an autographed copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. But regardless of value, I’m looking for content.”

Mondragon was the brainchild of former Bucknell University economics professor Charles Sackrey. “I didn’t have access to books as a child,” he says of his Texas upbringing. “I opened the bookstore to give that access to others who might be in the same position.”

Independent bookstores truly can be hidden gems in small towns. Take a moment to stop into your local independent bookstore and browse.

Written by Becky Chambers 

'If not us, who?'

The question,posed by Jennifer Neuhard-Rempe, executive director of the Susquehanna Valley CASA, references the critical need for volunteers to advocate for neglected and abused children as their cases wind their way through the court systems in Lycoming, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties. Children need someone to plead their case, to ensure their welfare is front and center when a judge decides their future. “People want to stick their head in the sand and say it’s not happening in my community,” said Neuhard-Rempe, of child abuse and neglect. “It’s here,” she affirmed. “It’s everywhere.”

 CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for children undergo 40 hours of training to learn about courtroom procedures and the consequences of abuse and neglect. After the course, CASAs are sworn in by a judge as official volunteer advocates. During the life of the child’s court case, CASAs act as the one constant in the child’s life, meeting regularly with the child (or sibling set) assigned to them, as they experience changes in foster placements, schools and caseworkers. CASAs also speak with everyone of significance to the child to understand every aspect of the child’s life. Then the CASA makes informed recommendations to the court, through written reports, regarding a permanent home and any needed support or services for the child.

 “I have volunteers who are dairy farmers, those who lack a high school education, PhDs, preachers—people from all walks of life,” explained Neuhard-Rempe. “Any citizen who can pass clearances, and is 21, can be a CASA volunteer,” she stresses. “These children need our help.  We need more people to stand up.”

Karen Nicholson, of Lewisburg, has been a CASA for nine years and is on the SV CASA board. “I got involved because children need a voice,” she said. “There are a lot of agencies I could spend my time with, but this is really important. This is where my heart is.”

 Over 150 children need CASAs in the four-county area served by SV CASA. Volunteer information sessions are being held soon. To learn more, contact SV CASA at

Written by Erica L. Shames 

The human angle

The history of the Underground Railroad has deep roots in Pennsylvania; scholars estimate that thousands of fugitive slaves passed through the commonwealth, as many as 1,000 runaway slaves moved safely through the Freedom Road area of Williamsport and there are many reputed “stops” on the Underground Railroad in Union County.

On March 12 and 13, 2016, the Susquehanna Valley Chorale will bring Let My People Go! to Susquehanna University’s Stretansky Concert Hall. The Donald McCullough work interweaves spirituals with a historically based script that has been described as both “poignant” and “moving.”

McCullough characterizes the work as “a celebration of two of America’s most venerable cultural treasures—the African-American spiritual and the Underground Railroad.”

“Our purpose is to bring informative music to the Valley and support the richness of the arts,” explained Dr. William Payn, who has served for 19 years as SVC music director and conductor.  Payn is confident that the work will resonate with local audiences. “Union County was a place where the Underground Railroad was active. One of our members, Betty McClure, owns a Victorian house in Lewisburg that was used on one of the routes.”

The story unfolds as African-American soloists and actors expound upon the ingenuity of the slaves in creating code songs with hidden messages embedded in their music. “’Follow the drinking gourd’ refers to the Big Dipper,” explains Payn, as one example. “Music speaks so strongly in many ways and helps people express themselves in ways they may otherwise be unable.”

Nancy Craig, president of the Susquehanna Valley Chorale Board of Directors, promises audiences an entertaining and enlightening evening. “This an opportunity for the community to hear a brilliant choral work, with exciting percussion accompaniment,” said Craig. “Not only does this work bring history alive, it also affects audiences on a visceral level. It helps us recall a traumatic part of U.S. history and presents the Civil War period from a human angle that we often forget.”  More information is at or (570) 547-0455.

Written by Stephanie Kalina-Metzger

Glenn Miller - Moonlight Serenade

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