A musical walk

Rotary Club adds unique Music Trail to city of Buffalo


Levi Benjamin, son of current Buffalo Rotary President Emily Benjamin plays the drums at the playground at Sturges Park in Buffalo at a Rotary picnic last summer. The drums are one of the 11 instruments along the trail. Contributed photo


The city of Buffalo has been a little more musical thanks to its new Music Trail, a brainchild of former Buffalo Rotary Club President Warren Stoltman.

Stoltman was president from July 2013 through June 2014 and wanted to make an impact during his term.

First he started by doing some research about the installation of outdoor musical instruments. During his research, he discovered the Maple Grove Rotary Club had added musical instruments to a common space near its public library. Stoltman was impressed with their installation, but he knew things would have to be done differently in Buffalo.

“In Maple Grove,” said Stoltman, “all the instruments are grouped together.”

His vision for Buffalo was to have the large percussive instruments installed along the walking path on the edge of Buffalo Lake and through Sturges Park. That vision is now a reality. There are drums, a huge xylophone, a stack of bells, and a large wind chime, along with several other instruments.

All the instruments are designed so they can be played by anyone walking along the trail. They are considered “percussive” instruments because the instruments are played by hitting them, one note – or several notes – at a time.

The idea started out as Stoltman’s, but it was implemented by the Buffalo Rotary Club with the help of many people and organizations in Buffalo, including the city of Buffalo, the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, and many Buffalo residents. It seemed that the whole community contributed to the project, as donations came from the Buffalo Community Orchestra, Buffalo Hospital, Elim Care, and numerous other corporate sponsors. The Buffalo Rotary Club did quite a bit of fundraising, and they also applied for and received grants through the Central Minnesota Arts Board and Rotary’s Matching Grant Program. Although the original plan was to raise enough money to buy six instruments for installation on the walking path, the fundraising was so successful that they were able to buy and install 11 instruments. With so many instruments, the proposed installation area was expanded to the Buffalo Commons Splashpad, where both a small and large xylophone have been installed.


Emily Benjamin’s children, Sophie and Levi Benjamin, play the xylophone and chimes at the playground in Sturges Park. Levi is 6 and Sophie is 4 in these photos, taken by their mom, Emily Benjamin, at the 2015 Rotary picnic. Emily is the current president of the Buffalo Rotary Club


It might sound strange to have musical instruments outside, especially in Minnesota, but these instruments are made for the outdoors. Created by Freenotes Harmony Parks based in Colorado, the instruments are made mostly of metal, are weather-resistant, and are sturdy enough to last through many Colorado or Minnesota winters. The first musical playground created by Freenotes Harmony Parks was installed in Moab, Utah, in 1995 and is still in use today.

Freenotes Harmony Parks was founded by Richard Cook, who once played with the Paul Winter Consort, and recently collaborated with Paul Winter on his 2007 Grammy-award-winning Crestone album. Cook had enjoyed playing music outdoors and wanted to find a way for others to participate in the outdoor music experience, so he began creating instruments that could be installed in parks for many to play.

Response to the addition of musical instruments to Sturges Park and the walking trail has been very positive. Residents who live near the park have enjoyed the spontaneous music, and there don’t seem to have been any issues with vandalism.

“Well,” said Stoltman, “kids have put stones in some of the instruments, but the city of Buffalo just picks them up.


Emily Benjamin’s children, Sophie and Levi Benjamin, play the xylophone and chimes at the playground in Sturges Park. Levi is 6 and Sophie is 4 in these photos, taken by their mom, Emily Benjamin, at the 2015 Rotary picnic. Emily is the current president of the Buffalo Rotary Club


For the two years they have been installed, there have really been no problems.”

Stoltman, who is an eye doctor in Buffalo, told about a patient whose care attendant couldn’t persuade him to get the exercise he needed. But ever since the installation of the musical instruments in the park, “It hasn’t been a chore,” he said. “He wants to go play the instruments and has to walk in order to play them.” In a sense, the music of the trail is therapy for him.

Music therapy is just one of the functions of the Music Trail. The instruments are designed so they can be played by adults or children, with or without any musical training or inclination. They can be played by serious musicians, or just for fun. But the instruments are also quite beautiful, adding to the scenic view of the lake seen from almost anywhere nearby. Mixed in among the flower gardens planted and maintained by area organizations, and with a backdrop of the fountain in Buffalo Lake, the well-designed instruments are almost like another art installation in Buffalo. They bring a sophisticated feeling to the park, as though it were a sculpture garden, not a city park.

One of the five avenues of service for Rotarians is community service, which “encourages every Rotarian to find ways to improve the quality of life for people in their communities and to serve the public interest.” If this ideal was Stoltman’s intent when he first suggested the Buffalo Music Trail to fellow Rotarians, he has certainly succeeded.

#BuffaloRotaryClub #musictherapy #MusicTrail #outdoormusicalinstruments

4 views

Senior Perspective, PO Box 1, Glenwood, MN 56334  ||  (320) 334-3344

©2020 Senior Perspective. Site by Palmer Creations.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube