The University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc Lakeshore Wind Ensemble was founded in the fall of 1983 by Professor Michael J. Arendt as part of the University's Community Outreach Program. Beginning with a membership of 35 student and community members, the LWE performed its first concert in March of 1984. Since that time, the wind ensemble has grown to a current membership of over 90 musicians, and encompasses a wide age span from students to retired persons, in a blend of youthful exuberance and musical maturity. Community members from all walks of life form the basis of the organization, since there is a continual change in the student membership at the two-year UW campus. Several of these community members have played with the wind ensemble since its inception, and numerous students have "come home" to the wind ensemble after completing their degrees at a four-year university. The common bonds of this diverse group are the love of good music and the joy of sharing that music with others.
The LWE first rehearsed in a basement room at UW-Manitowoc/ Acoustically and physically it left much to be desired. The ceiling was so low that Professor Arendt’s baton would occasionally pierce the ceiling panel above the podium during rehearsal. Hillside Hall, formerly West Hall, was constructed on the UW-Manitowoc campus in 1987. A music wing, including a large rehearsal room, piano lab, and practice and storage rooms, became the home of the wind ensemble.
In January of 1990, the Lakeshore Wind Ensemble was invited to perform at the convention of the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Band Association. The band was honored by being chosen by the NBA Selection Committee to be the featured band to perform at the convention's closing concert.
In the summer of 2001, an extensive expansion and renovation project was provided by the Manitowoc County Board, the people of Manitowoc County, and the University of Wisconsin system. Lakeside Hall, which houses the Music Department and University Theatre was a major part of that project. The new music facility includes a large rehearsal room used by the Lakeshore Wind Ensemble, Lakeshore Big Band and UW-Manitowoc Chorus, as well as serving as a lecture/class room. The department also includes needed space for music libraries, storage facilities, office space, piano lab and practice rooms.
Concerts presented by the Lakeshore Wind Ensemble in the first years were presented in the UW-Manitowoc Fine Arts Room, but other sites had to be found due to the growth of both the ensemble and its audiences. Concerts were presented at Washington High School, Two Rivers, and at Wilson Junior High in Manitowoc in 1986. Two concerts were held at the Capitol Civic Centre prior to its renovation. While the Capitol was undergoing its renovation, the LWE presented concerts in the multi-purpose room - also fondly referred to as the “performing arts gym.” Since the 1990-01 season, however, the Lakeshore Wind Ensemble has presented its annual subscription series at the Capitol Civic Centre.
The Lakeshore Wind Ensemble now presents five concerts annually at the Capitol, but two of the concerts have two performances because of their overwhelming popularity. The season begins with "Music of the Masters," which is presented in October. “A Festival of Christmas,” is for many the start of the holiday season. This concert generally is held the first weekend of December, and identical concerts are presented on Friday and Saturday evenings. The other concert that has two performances is “The Biggest of the Big Bands,” or pops concert, which is held in mid January. Joining the wind ensemble on stage at the Capitol is the UW-Manitowoc Lakeshore Big Band, for an exciting evening of the sounds of the fabulous swing era. In March, the wind ensemble presents “The Winds of March.” At this concert the high school and college division winners of the Lakeshore Wind Association's Young Artist Competition are featured in solo performances with the ensemble. The final concert of the season is “An American Salute” in May, which focuses on the contributions of American composers and pays tribute to our musical heritage.
The wind ensemble presented several concerts at the Manitowoc Historical Society’s Pinecrest Village. The wind ensemble also has presented a free “concert in the park” in Two Rivers for the past several years as part of that city's “Music Under the Stars” program. The 2005 concert is scheduled for Sunday, July 31, in Washington Park in Two Rivers. In case of rain - which hasn’t happened yet - the concert will be moved across the street to the Hamilton House.
As well as entertaining audiences close to home, the LWE has traveled abroad numerous times. In all, the group has undertaken seven concert trips including four to Continental Europe, one to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and one to Manitowoc’s sister city, Kamogawa, Japan. The ensemble also toured Scandinavia and Russia in the summer of 2000. The tours proved to all that music is truly the universal language.