Minnesota ‘Over 60’ Band was inducted into Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 2003.
Old musicians never die, they just blow away. They may be getting older, but members of the Minnesota “Over 60” Band know they’re never too old to enjoy or play the music. A roll of drums, a clash of cymbals and the sound of brass horns brings back a piece of Americana each time the band plays a concert or makes a parade appearance and they’ve been doing it for the past 59 years. “Playing music is a lifelong activity and as we perform around the state we’re a testament to that reality,” says Ray Jacobson, President of the Minnesota “Over 60” Band. Comprised of members who are men and women age 60 and older, the band performs at approximately two dozen parades, county fairs or at a variety of other venues each summer. The purpose of the band not only gives former musicians an opportunity to have an outlet for their talents but to remain active and provide entertainment to others. The band had its beginnings nearly 60 years ago back in 1953 as the Sibley County Senior Citizens Hobby Band which was based in Gaylord. Senior citizens were invited to show their hobbies that included some old musical instruments at the annual meeting that year when Gaylord’s mayor, Otto Zarnott, organized some friends who decided to “blow” their horns instead of “show”. The band continued to expand from 14 charter members and seven musicians who performed for its debut performance to over 40 members today that includes people from a wide variety of communities and walks of life but all having a mutual interest in music as a hobby that has endured for nearly six decades. Participants come from all over as far away as Canby on the western side of the state to the Twin Cities, Albert Lea and even Iowa. The oldest member of the band is 90 years-old although the band by-laws does allow for up to three under the age of 60 to bring “younger” talent into the group. Originally an all male band, changes were made in 1996 when the first women band members were allowed to join. “Some of our members are getting older so anyone with an interest in music is invited to give us a try and join the band,” explained Jacobson. “We’d like to get as many musicians as we can, there is no limit on numbers, the more the merrier and when there are more of us, everyone involved doesn’t feel like they have to be at every parade when we need about 30 to perform,” he noted. “With a variety of backgrounds and careers, most of us have been playing an instrument since we were in grade school and we enjoy music,” added Jacobson. “What’s fun is that there is very little competitive pressure to play in our band which is also enjoyable…we only do the best we can and once our practices start each year, everything you spent a lot of years learning all comes back real quick. You’re reminded of the comraderi that comes with playing music in a band. It’s important for people of all ages to have this relationship with others of similar interests,” he said. Jacobson, who plays trombone in the band, says the Minnesota “Over 60” Band has probably traveled down more main streets in community parades for festivals than most other bands. “We have a lot of fun doing this, we like being part of the community that we play for, often sticking around after our performance to be part of the activities,” he added. The band has a very active schedule each summer which is coordinated by Dorothy Marquardt (507-762-3430). “She does a good job of coordinating our appearances so we aren’t double booking but we still usually play two July 4 parades at Albert Lea and Apple Valley as July generally is our busiest month,” he said. Unlike most bands the Minnesota “Over 60” Band is a “sit down” band – they don’t march in parades but rather ride in style. The first wagon that was used burned and a new one was built and named the “Golden Chariot.” It held 35-40 members and served the band well until 2001 when a new wagon with a tarp for shade was designed and constructed. The band has an extensive library of marches, novelty numbers, overtures, waltzes, polkas and patriotic selections from which to draw. Although rehearsals have already started for the upcoming season, new members are invited to join. “Even though you’ve been out of music for awhile but long to give playing an instrument in a band another chance, the Minnesota “Over 60″ Band just might be the place for you,” said Jacobson who can be contacted for more information at 507-550-4096. Band History Have horn, will travel. Now mainly confined to Minnesota appearances, the band has a proud history of coast-to-coast musical adventures that began shortly after “music man” Zarnott founded the group at age 78. As a young man he led Gaylord’s rural Transit Township concert band. Later, as mayor of Gaylord for 20 years, Zarnott’s leadership abilities helped his love of music transform the idea of a small senior citizens band into something much bigger. The call went out to the Golden Age Clubs across eight counties surrounding Gaylord. Horns, cymbals, clarinets, trombones and drums were pulled out of closets and attics, dusted off and oiled. Lips that were out of practice, got back into shape again on mouthpieces. The members all brought back a wealth of talent and experience of playing in college, town bands or dance orchestras. Playing music again was therapy, remembrances of youth, comradeship and fun. For the band, age was not a shelving of talents but a way to express pride in a nostalgic way for life they remembered when the home town band was a main attraction. Over the years, hundreds of local band appearances have taken them to nursing homes, hospitals, institutions, county fairs, carnivals, farm yard picnics and festivals. They have appeared at World Fairs, serenaded Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, been honored by the U.S. Army Band in Washington, D.C., played on the national capitol steps and were perennial favorites at the St. Paul Winter Carnival and Minnesota State Fair. The Minnesota “Over 60” Band took their first big trip to Seattle’s World Fair in 1962 and emerged as “favorites at the fair” at the end of the exposition. In 1965 at Minnesota Day at the New York World’s Fair, the band was back as the state’s official musical organization. The 36 Minnesotans on the trip averaged age 70 years-old. Other special appearances for the Minnesota “Over 60” Band have occurred in Washington, D.C. during 1965 when Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy sat in for one of the concert numbers and played the clarinet. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey at the capitol said, “they were over the age of 60 on the calendar, but younger than Jack Benny in spirit…this is probably the most unique and outstanding organizations I’ve ever met in Washington.” In 1967 the band traveled to the Montreal Exposition followed by Farmfest in 1972 and 1976, the Spokane Exposition in 1974, Washington, D.C. Bicentennial, 1976; Southeastern USA Tour, 1977; Northeastern states, 1978; Southwest states, 1979; Canada Tour, 1981; Knoxville World’s Fair, 1982; and Great Lakes Circle Tour, 1985. Harry Anderson of Bernadotte was the first musical director from 1955-61. Over the years the beat of the band was directed by Edward Klucking, Gaylord – 1962-68; Lawrence Hansen, Appleton – 1968-76; Erling Herman, Lake Crystal – 1976-82; Don Fouse, Vesta – 1983; Glen Linscheid, Butterfield – 1984; Don Trembley, St. Peter – 1986-91; and Lindscheid for a second time from 1992-2003. Today, the band plays on under the direction of current band leader Darrel Rupp of Mankato. Among all the recognition the band has received over time for its many achievements, one of the biggest honors took place in 2003 when the Minnesota “Over 60” Band was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame which has a museum in New Ulm. For a tour and museum hours, contact Charlie Braunreiter, Administrator, 507-354-7305 or on the web at firstname.lastname@example.org.