Kelly Kite is the first to admit he can't carry a tune in a bucket.
Play a musical instrument? "I can't even play a radio," he said with a laugh.
But Kite loves music. He and his wife, Cathie, are big boosters of the Carson Valley Pops Orchestra and together chair the Pops Patrons, volunteers who raise funds to keep the little orchestra going.
"I just think music is important," Kite said.
That's why he was more than willing to stand up for the volunteer orchestra during a recent dustup with the Sierra Philharmonic League over plans to hold a picnic and concert on July 4 in the Minden Park.
As a tuneup for Minden's centennial, July 6, 2006, the town decided to move its annual picnic from late summer to July 4, and invited the Carson Valley Pops Orchestra to perform. Knowing that the popular Reno Philharmonic Pops in the Park concert is that day, town board members planned to begin the picnic at 11:30 a.m. and have the orchestra play at 1 p.m. Anyone who also wants to attend the Philharmonic concert at Mormon Station in Genoa would have plenty of time before the 5 p.m. performance.
That's when the sheet music hit the fan.
As a courtesy, the town sent a letter to the Sierra Philharmonic League which makes all the arrangements for the Reno Philharmonic to play in Genoa. It's a huge job to raise money, arrange for raffle and auction prizes, move equipment and musicians from Reno to Genoa and hope that the weather will cooperate.
The free concert is first-rate and draws its audience from all over northern Nevada and California. Upwards of 3,000 people attend with some families arriving as early as 8 a.m. to stake out blanket space and celebrate July 4 in Nevada's historic settlement.
The Philharmonic League, fearing that the Minden picnic would draw concertgoers from Genoa, asked the town to change its plans. A representative spoke to the town board at its April 3 meeting, citing the 19-year history of the Genoa Pops in the Park, the $20,000 in expenses every year and the potential drain on financial resources and music lovers if there were two concerts on July 4.
The town, to its credit, chose not to play the David vs. Goliath card. Instead, board members emphasized that this Independence Day, the first since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, should offer as many alternatives as possible.
"We're not trying to take anything away from Pops in the Park," said town board chairman Bruce Jacobsen after the meeting. "But for some people, Genoa is way too crowded. They don't want to get there at 8 a.m. to save space. This way, people can just walk over to the Minden Park and enjoy the Pops orchestra."
Since its inception, the town has supported the orchestra, providing free rehearsal space in the CVIC Hall and sending out concert notices with the water bills. For three years, a mix of amateur and professional musicians from teens through senior citizens have come from as far away as Yerington, Reno and Incline Village to practice every Monday in the CVIC Hall in Minden. Concerts are free, but donations are accepted to help pay for music royalties, sheet music and other incidentals. Nobody gets paid.
"We have fun," said Pops conductor and violinist Danny Yale, whose music roots date back to childhood lessons in New York City and Paris.
"We're not talking competition," he said, comparing the 25-member amateur pops orchestra to the mighty Reno Philharmonic."It's ridiculous to consider such a thought, though it is very flattering.
"What really got my craw," added the maestro, "is that they would have the audacity to come into somebody's town and say, `We give a concert. You cannot give one.' That's kind of overstepping somebody's bounds."
Philharmonic fans tried to talk the town into having the concert on July 6, the anniversary of the founding of Minden. The town fathers, who know a thing or two about tradition, listened politely, but did not budge. They reasoned there is enough Sousa and suntan lotion to go around.
"The Fourth of July is always important, but this year especially so. Whoever wants to have a concert or a picnic should be able to have one," said Chairman Jacobsen. "If we want to have one, if the town of Gardnerville wants one, if my neighbor wants one, we should support them all."
As for changing the date of the Minden picnic, "This country only has one birthday," Jacobsen said.
The Carson Valley Pops Orchestra plans to play some Sousa on July 4, lots of patriotic music and a offer salute to the armed forces. Yale is even talking about booking a banjo player.
The Kites, meanwhile, will organize the Pops Patrons who are selling hotdogs and hamburgers at the picnic to keep the volunteer orchestra going.
"We just want people to feel welcome to walk over to the park, buy a hamburger or bring a picnic and listen to some patriotic music," Kite said. "I think we're even going to have apple pie and ice cream."
It sounds a lot like the July 4 Pops in the Park celebrations of 19 years ago.
Sheila Gardner is the night desk editor of the Nevada Appeal.