Tom attended his first Chatham Band concert in 1968 at the age of three. His grandparents, having a seasonal home on the Cape as well as his uncle, aunt and cousins who lived in Chatham, frequented Kate Gould Park on summer Friday nights for decades. Upon moving here himself, he joined the band in 2005 as a trombone player. A few years later, after the music librarian retired, he took over the position and began to order new and updated pieces to add to the band’s extensive repertoire. It was at a holiday performance at church (which Mr. Jahnke wrote, sang and conducted a small choir) that Ken Eldredge, the band leader at the time, noticed his ability to lead a musical group. Ken then asked the band to make Tom the assistant conductor. In 2014, Ken retired and Tom was made the musical director, a position which he still holds today.
Tom has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a specialization in Theatre. He has played numerous acting roles around the Cape at the Academy Playhouse in Orleans, the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, the Cape Repertory Theater in Brewster as well as the defunct Ad Hoc Theater company at the now Orpheum Theater in Chatham. This is where his mother says he gets his “showmanship.” He’s been playing the trombone since fourth grade. He is also a baritone vocal soloist for the Outer Cape Chorale based in Provincetown and enjoys playing and singing with the Harwich Town Band as well as the Sound Dunes Swing Ensemble which plays for numerous dance events around the Cape. Mr. Jahnke’s favorite quote comes from Massachusetts’ own Henry David Thoreau, “In a world of peace and love, music would be the universal language.” Tom lives in Harwich Center and thinks there is nothing better than a life on Cape Cod especially when “It’s Band Time in Chatham!”
In the early years, the Chatham Band was directed by Joe Martell and Thomas Nassi. Mr. Nassi and his wife were originally from Albania and lived in Orleans on Route 28, across from what was then the main school. They taught music in Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Brewster and Harwich. Several of the current band members learned to read music from Mr. and Mrs. Nassi. There is a small park in Orleans named for their son Sgt. Albert P. Nassi who was killed in World War II.
There is a wikipedia page detailing the life of Mr. Nassi. Click here to read the entry.
Whitney "Whit" Tileston
When Mr. Nassi, who was the director for only a short period of time, retired from teaching it became necessary to find a new director. After several people attempted to do the job, the band lucked out with the new vocal music teacher for the school system, Whitney Tileston.
Mr. Tileston started the Friday night music program we have today. Over a period of time “Whit” became known as “Mr. Music”, the “Man in the White Suit” and the “Hi-De-Ho Man!” He was a charming and tireless conductor who led the band for forty-eight years.
He deeply loved his Chatham and the band that he conducted. To best personify how he truly felt, to the left is one of his poems that was printed in the Cape Cod Chronicle in 1993.
Whit passed away on February 12th, 1995 at 88 years young. And though you don’t see him on Friday nights, you can surely feel his presence both in the bandstand (for whom it is now named) and throughout his beloved audience.
With Whit’s passing, a new director was needed. Kenneth Eldredge, the band’s assistant director for more than a decade took the baton and conducted his first concert as the Chatham Band Director on June 30th, 1995.
Ken started with the band in the 1930s. He played xylophone and wanted to see what it was like to play the drums. His father spoke to the band’s snare drummer who invited him to come and sit beside him. He was “some thrilled” with the opportunity.
Ken’s family tree goes back to 1643. He was born and raised in Chatham, working as a young man at the family laundry, which he eventually owned. Ken has spent his whole life in a band; from Chatham Elementary to the Coast Guard during World War II.
Since he first became conductor, Ken has worked to not only keep the concerts fresh for the musicians, but to keep the tradition of delighting both the young and the young at heart. He’s got a great feel for music and is terrific at conveying that to the members of the band.
At the beginning of each concert, he gave his ritualistic salute to his predecessor, Whit Tileston with 2 big 'Hip-Hip Hi-De-Ho's' before declaring what generations of enthusiastic audience members love to hear each Summer Friday night, promptly at 8 PM, “It’s Band Time in Chatham!”