The song is written by Atascadero resident H. Jack Dexter
ATASCADERO — On Sunday, Oct. 9, at their concert, “Around the World in 80 Notes,” which took place at the Atascadero Bible Church, the Atascadero Community Band debuted a song dedicated to Atascadero. The song, which had its world premiere at the end of the concert, is titled “Tent City Rag” and is written by local H. Jack Dexter.
“Tent City Rag was composed by Howard Jack Dexter, a relative newcomer to Atascadero. However, his parents, Roland and Rosemary, arrived in town in the late 1970s,” said the afternoon’s second conductor, Carol Kouklis. “Jack writes original works for various instruments, sings in the church choir, and arranges music as opportunities arise.”
The song came at the conclusion of a trip around the world in musical form. The 13 songs prior to “Tent City Rag” took the audience from England to Russia and all the way to Japan before returning back to Atascadero.
“I was just impressed by the quality of this band, first of all,” said Dexter as to what spurred wanting to create the song for the band. “We came to many, many of their concerts at the lake over the years. I take my mom there for dinner on Tuesday nights, and so I thought, you know, I’ve never really written anything for a band before, so I thought, why not give it a shot, and so I did.”
Dexter studied music theory and composition in school before deciding to ultimately get a degree in fine arts. He followed that up with getting a doctorate in administration and working in a medical school for most of his career before retiring.
“Music has just been the hobby. It’s been a love of mine, and then when I retired and had the time and the equipment, I decided I’d start composing again,” Dexter added.
Atascadero News was in the audience to see the world premiere of “Tent City Rag.” When we asked how long it took him to write it, Dexter replied that the song came to him very quickly and that, in total, it took him about a month to compose, which is quite a feat in itself, given the amazing composition.
“This work was conceived as a tribute to the history and local geography to the city of Atascadero, California,” said Kouklis when she introduced the song to the crowd at the concert. “Atascadero was founded in 1913 by the visionary real estate developer Edward Gardner Lewis. To celebrate those founding years, what better music than ragtime? It was so popular in that era. Lewis invited prospective buyers to stay in a pop-up community of tents and other temporary buildings. Soon, Tent City became the affectionate name given to the enterprise. As the town became a reality, Lewis added a large-scale printery and a toy factory with which to employ townsfolk. If one listens, the ragtime motif sounds very much like ‘Oh ho for Atascadero.’ Within the music, the listener can hear the sounds of the toy factory and the printery in action.”
She also commented that the song also contains moments that speak to the beauty of the Atascadero Lake, which is where the Atascadero Community Band plays a majority of their concerts and where Dexter most often watches them himself.
“This band is terrific, and because they support music education, I think that’s another one of the reasons why everybody should be supporting this band. I will, too, in the future,” stated Dexter.
At Sunday’s concert, the Atascadero Community Band chose a local nonprofit organization to receive donations provided by the audience. This round, the money went to the San Luis Obispo Instrumental Music Boosters. They support the marching, concert, and jazz bands at San Luis Obispo High and Laguna Middle School.
The Atascadero Community Band’s next performance will take place on Dec. 10 at 2:30 p.m. at the Pavilion at the Lake.
Feature Image: H. Jack Dexter, the composer of Tent City Rag, is shown after the world premiere of his song. Photo by Christianna Marks