— by Chris Earnest
The late Ronald Rhodes (horn ’54-’55) had the original idea for the site, and started it in 1997. Working from Army records and material collected from orchestra members, he assembled the initial versions of the Members list, the Member Biographies, the Old Photo Gallery, and the Tales and Legends about the orchestra. Other early additions to the site were the Lost Sheep list of unreachable members and the In Memoriam page listing deceased members. Ron also instituted the traditions — all still in existence — of listing living orchestra members on the site only with their permission, updating the site every Sunday, and posting a different orchestra-related photo on the home page each time. The core content of the site is Ron's work. In 2001 he was a chief organizer for the reunion in New Hampshire, and he added a section to the site for that. This is what the homepage looked like shortly before the reunion.
After the Katrina hurricane, which flooded Ron out of his home, he asked Christopher Earnest (horn 1955) to take over the site for a while. Chris built the section about the 2006 Ohio reunion and changed the appearance of the homepage. Later that year Chris added the list of links to members’ external sites and collected material from many members to create the Chronology chart of major events in the orchestra’s history and the new Concerts section containing programs and other information about orchestra concerts.
In the spring of 2007 Ron took over the site again and ran it until July 2009, when he no longer felt able to do so and again turned it over to Chris. Chris carried out a major restructuring, introducing CSS style sheets, to make the site easier to maintain and to modernize the appearance of the homepage and the other major pages. In October he built the new Recordings section from recordings of orchestra performances submitted by Mel Ponzi (bass ’56-‘57) and later by Ed Alley (conductor, bass ’58-‘60). For the 2010 reunion, he added photos of the concert cities to the Concerts section, along with site tours, slide shows, and audio playlists — all so the site could display its contents and sounds on its own at the reunion. After some changes in February 2010, the home page remained much like this until March 2017, when Chris again modernized it, moved the site to a faster hosting server, and moved some code for the Concerts section to the server side to simplify maintenance.
The site continues to evolve and grow, as members find still more material to send in. In 2016 the number of programs and other entries in the Concerts section grew by more than 20%, thanks to just such a submission. And thumbnail images of all photos were added to the Old Photos page to make the page more attractive and photos easier to find. The number of members listed on the site grew from 255 in 2001 to 344 in 2006, then to 422 by 2016.
The site has become a major historical resource, and in 2016 Chris was able to arrange for it to be archived in the Library of Congress. It will be copied in full every six to twelve months. As long as the site itself is still active the archived copies will be accessible only through computers in the Reading Room of the Library, as the archived copies are intended primarily for research, not to compete with the active site.
The development of the site to this level is due largely to the involvement of former orchestra members — too many to list — who have been very generous in contributing a wealth of information for use on the site, and in reporting news of interest. For all that help, Ron and Chris wish to express heartfelt thanks.
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