Remembering Ann Lord, Mistress of Ceremonies for the Naperville Municipal Band

Donate Today Buy This Video

If you have been to a Naperville Municipal Band (NMB) concert, then you have heard the voice…and laugh…of Ann Lord. The longtime Mistress of Ceremonies will be remembered for her good humor and quick wit as she guided the crowd through musical history during her six decades in the role.

Joining the Naperville Municipal Band

Ann first started with the band when she was 15 years old. She joined the group in 1946 after being recruited by then-band director Elmer Koerner.

“I started playing in the band when I was in high school. Elmer Koerner directed the high school band, and he also did the adult band and he always needed people. So what he would do is take the band kids and put them in the city band. And so it would have been in my sophomore year that I started playing my clarinet with the city band,” said Ann Lord.

Dreaming of being on stage

She continued until she left for Grinnell College in Iowa. There, she wanted to pursue her childhood dream.

“I majored in speech and theater and I always wanted to be an actress. I wanted to do something on stage,” said Ann. 

Though she appeared in several area theatre productions, Ann eventually found a job in copywriting for KGLO Television and Radio in Mason City, Iowa. She went on to become an on-screen personality for the channel and even met her husband John Lord on the job.

In 1957 Ann returned to Naperville after her mother passed away, moving back into her childhood home. She would end up teaching speech at Naperville North High School for 20 years, and Naperville Central for one.

Becoming the Mistress of Ceremonies

But there was one passion of Ann’s that fell right back into tempo. Not long after returning, Ann’s mentor Elmer Koerner approached her about coming back to the band. He asked if she could announce one of the summer concerts.

“After that happened, the band president at that time was Jerry Pickell, and he and Mr. Koerner went to Ann’s house and asked if she would be interested in doing the announcing and she said, ‘Well yeah, for a while, on a temporary basis’. So 60 years later, she’s still announcing,” said Ron Keller.

It was a role that became more than just introducing the next song.

“In the beginning, I probably just got up there and announced the numbers and then as we went along, I started doing research on the pieces they were playing so that I could talk about them more,” said Ann.

“Originally and through the years it evolved into going from writing scripts to trying to ad-lib, which didn’t work at all. Only I didn’t know that,” said Ann.

She eventually landed on using 4×6 cards for her intros, which was the perfect balance for the performances.

Singing with the band

Alongside playing and narrating, Ann also sang with the band when they put on specialty acts and musical theater numbers.

“She was a great singer, had a beautiful voice, and loved to sing and loved music of all kinds, not just band music,” said her son, Steve Lord.

The NMB performances became family events for the Lords as Ann’s husband John would handle the sound for the group, and two of her children, Steve and Catherine, would often perform. Her son Doug was also a frequent member of the audience.

It all began to feel like her childhood dream coming true.

“Doing these band concerts was like being on stage, so yes, I enjoyed doing it. And as long as nobody told me to leave, I just stayed,” said Ann. 

Ann Lord and Ron Keller connection

What made the job even sweeter was doing it alongside her childhood friend, Ron Keller. Together, they were able to grow the NMB in their emcee-director partnership for over 50 years.

“There’s a great rapport between she and I, even on stage. I would maybe walk over to her to say I want to say something and she’ll look at me and say, ‘here he is again, he wants to say something’. That’s just part of the fun. Part of it makes it human and part of it makes it small town,” said Ron. 

Ann died at the age of 93 just a month after her friend Ron, on February 24…which would have been Ron’s 85th birthday. 

Lord legacy continues

She had stepped away from her Mistress of Ceremonies duties after 66 years, in the summer of 2023. 

Her son Steve took over for indoor concerts, and will continue filling her shoes until the end of this summer.

“I hope that I do a good job with it. I’m trying to channel the things I learned from watching my mom do it,” said Steve. “She’ll always kind of be there in the back of my head as I’m going through these and looking at her cards.”

Steve spoke of his mom’s commitment to both the band community and the Naperville community, and hopes both remember her with a smile.

“People in town, I hope they would remember her kind of loving nature but also for her sense of humor, I think that was such an important part of her,” said Steve. 

Remembering Ann Lord

Visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, at Beidelman-Kunsch Funeral Homes & Crematory at 516 S. Washington St., Naperville. 

There will also be a service at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13, including visitation from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the funeral home.