Former Greendale resident John Munger to lead last Wilsonaires concert before retirement

Published on: 5/6/2014

Greendale — Later this month, local music icon John Munger will celebrate his retirement with one last farewell concert.

Munger has played a significant role in Greendale's musical community, having spent 30 years teaching band and orchestra in the Greendale School District and 25 years as director of the Greendale Community Church Choir and Instrument groups.

He also established several local musical groups in Greendale, including the village's concert band, swing band, Ramblers Dixieland Band and the Festival Chorus and Orchestra.

Munger served various leadership roles in musical groups throughout Southeast Wisconsin.

Throughout Munger's extensive career in Greendale, he was recognized by the village with multiple awards, such as the Spirit of Greendale and the Volunteer Spirit of Greendale.

Munger moved out of Greendale two years ago, but he never forgot its welcoming community, he said.

"My life has always been about music," Munger said, "and Greendale has been such a wonderful, supportive community. It has been such a joy growing up there and leading the various musical groups."

After retiring from teaching in 1989, Munger joined the Wilsonaires Chorus — a four-part harmony chorus from the Wilson Senior Center in Milwaukee. Within a year, Munger became the program's director.

The Wilson Senior Center is one of five Milwaukee County Senior Centers managed by Interfaith Older Adult Programs, which services more than 2,500 seniors through various activities and programs.

The Wilsonaires Chorus holds about 15 concerts a year, divided between winter and spring, at the senior center as well as many other retirement homes, said Wilson Center Director John Neumann.

"Music really is John (Munger)'s life and he takes it very seriously; he doesn't mess around," Neumann said. "People who come to the chorus really respect him. He just has a way of getting people to be the best they can be."

After 24 years of directing the Wilsonaires, however, Munger is ready for retirement at the age of 81.

Munger and his wife have decided the move to a retirement community in Arizona in September, but not before directing a few more performances.

The Wilsonaires spring concert, "Love and Nonsense Songs," will feature music from the 1940s and 50s with such nonsensical songs, such as "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."

Performances will be held Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17, at 1:30 p.m. in the Wilson Senior Center, located at 2601 W. Howard Ave. Admission is free, but donations will be collected.

Munger and the Wilson Senior Center will also be looking for a successor to lead the senior chorus.

But just because Munger is retiring doesn't mean he's done playing music.

When asked if he'll continue to play, Munger excitedly exclaimed, "Oh yes! The retirement community (in Arizona) has a 90-piece concert band that's looking for a tuba player, and I play tuba, so I should fit right in."