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And the band plays on..

St. Cloud band now in 125th year.

Music has certainly withstood the test of time, thanks in part to a long line of musicians who have been a part of the St. Cloud Municipal Band. While working to promote music as a life-long experience, this group works hard to share at all levels. Founded in 1887, this community band is still going strong making music, something they have done for the past 125 years. While the first band was recorded in the archives of the St. Cloud Times in 1887, historians believe the band may have been performing a few years prior to that. Reaching a milestone of this nature requires a lot of dedicated individuals, who have logged countless hours of rehearsal and performance time. Over the years, a number of changes have taken place, as prior to the turn of the century records indicate they were the only band in the nation that performed while riding bicycles. It was back in 1895 that records show this bicycle band was even featured at the Minnesota State Fair. Come 1923, G. Oliver Riggs, who was then considered St. Cloud’s “Music Man,” was given the task to build a new boys band for the city. Four years later his band was 233 members strong and gave them bragging rights as the largest band in the world. Dating back to 1928, members of that band went on to play in the big bands of Tommy Dorsey and Gene Krupa, along with many other military and professional groups. Switch to full time In 1947, nearly 65 years ago, the band became a full-time organization, with rehearsals and concerts slated year-round. That led to the 1950s, with the band becoming diversified, adding more classical works along with Broadway scores, American folk music and many pops arrangements. Five years later Roger Barrett, who went on to serve as chairman of the St. Cloud State Music Department, became conductor of the band. That led to a unique honor as in 1964 the band was the first group to perform in the Benedicta Arts Center at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph. In 1984, the band was called upon to play for the retirement ceremony of Barrett, after having held the baton for more than 30 years, and they also performed at the dedication ceremonies for the Heritage Center of the Stearns County Historical Society. Over the years that organization has kept records and photos of the organization. It wasn’t until 1996 that Kathleen Johnson became the first female conductor of the band. Other past directors of the band have included Eugene Neri, Marv Pearson, Frank Herring, Richard Hansen, Bob Wig, Lowell Larson, Dave Haedt, Mel Hauck and Gordon Schlichting. Invited to China In 1999, after more than 20 years of normal relations with China, the band was invited to perform in Beijing. While in China, the group also had an opportunity to visit such places as The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, The Great Hall of People, The Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square. Following that outing, it wasn’t until February of 2005 when the band made a trip to Puerto Vallarta, with Dave Haedt wielding the baton. In the fall of that year the band was called upon to play for the deployment ceremony of the Minnesota National Guard to Iraq. Another overseas trip came to be in 2009 when the group was invited to perform in Spalt, Germany. The band was earlier directed by Glen Toumaala, with Adam Tervola-Hultberg of New York Mills now serving as conductor. Having been in the lead position for approximately two and one-half years, Hultberg oversees the band that now has a concert schedule of up to 30 free performances a year. Hultberg is currently the president of the Minnesota Band Director’s Association. Over the years the municipal band has performed summer concerts at Barden Park near the St. Cloud State University campus. The band is called upon to perform at a number of special events, including the Memorial Day program at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in St. Cloud, along with the 4th of July fireworks at Hester Park. The band has taken on a new role to perform in area schools in a move to promote the life-long enjoyment of music-making. Still year-round While the band is still called upon for events year-round, they remain as a volunteer organization, with members receiving only a small stipend at the end of each year to help compensate for mileage expenses. Each band member provides their own instrument and is responsible for his or her own transportation to each event. Unlike the days when the band numbered more than 200 members, presently 52 players make up the St. Cloud Municipal Band. Mark Kaehler, who has served as business manager for a number of years, notes the enticement of the trip to China and other points of interest brought him back to picking up his instrument. Not having played his bass clarinet for more than 25 years, Kaehler has remained with the group ever since making the first big trip. Big musical family Kaehler likens the band to being “one big musical family.” Performers come from all walks of life including realtors, business owners, pharmacists, medical therapists, practitioners of law, along with a couple former conductors even back in a chair. That is but a few of the wide variety of occupations that make up this unit. These days the band receives a number of requests to join, however, they are working to maintain the present size, in an effort to keep the sections in place. However, Kaehler noted they can always use bassoon players. Apparently that is one chair that is hard to fill. Longevity and travel Joe Fox of St. Cloud, who is the current president of the band, is also credited as being the longest-serving member. Earning his chair at the age of 18, he has performed with his piccolo and flute for nearly 35 years. Players come from around the area, with Bob Kern and John Creasy of the Princeton-Milaca area credited with the longest commute to practices and events. It is this type of dedication that makes this community band stand out. You can learn more about this historic band by clicking on Check them out With the 2012 season in full swing, the next time you can expect to hear this band is the 4th of July celebration at Hester Park, which is located near the St. Cloud Hospital. That all leads up to November when the band will be called up for the 125th signature performance at the Paramount Theatre in downtown St. Cloud. Exact details can be found on the band’s website.

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