top of page

Over 60 Band turns 70

Group has been entertaining people in south central Minnesota since 1953

By Carlienne A. Frisch

Whether they are tooting a horn or beating a drum, members of the Minnesota Over 60 Band, with musicians from all over south-central Minnesota, sometimes get the humorous comment, “You don’t look 60.” The musicians reply, “I age well.”

That’s no understatement.

Instead of marching, the Over 60 Band sits comfortably as they perform in community parades. Contributed photo

The current 20-member band includes Carl Bloedel, who at age 95 plays the bass drum, and clarinet player Donald Sieberg, who is looking forward to his 90th birthday.

In a nod to individual members’ longevity, the band’s performances involve no marching; during parade season, the band performs atop a float. The rest of their concerts take place in various venues across southern Minnesota -- from Belle Plaine to New Ulm, and from Elysian to Austin.

The Minnesota Over 60 Band had its beginning in 1953, when a group of Sibley County senior citizens were invited to show off their hobbies and talents. A group of friends who played various instruments came together, and a non-profit organization was born.

Now celebrating its 70th anniversary, the Minnesota Over 60 Band draws musicians from across a wide swath of the state -- Albert Lea, Winnebago, Lewisville, New Ulm, Gibbon, Faribault, Mankato--even as far west and north as Willmar.

Because of its longevity and service to the community, the band was even inducted into the New Ulm Music Hall of Fame.

A closer look inside the band shows some interesting and talented people.

The Over 60 Band performs in a parade in a small community, one of hundreds of appearances at parades over the last 70 years. Contributed photo

Dave and Darlene Fretham, of Winnebago, are both in their early 70s, and both play the saxophone. Darlene plays tenor sax; Don plays a variety of saxophones--whatever is needed in a particular musical piece. A third sax player in the band is Mary Borstad.

The band’s director and conductor, Mariah Guerrero, joined the Minnesota Over 60 Band three years ago. For each performance, she chooses about 20 music pieces. They rehearse weekly at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mankato. There are no rehearsals during the summer concert season, when the band stays sharp by performing about once a week.

A flute player since elementary school, Guerrero said, “I’ve been in bands all of my life.”

Vic Ruhland, a 90-year-old clarinet player who drives from his home in St. Paul to all of the Over 60 Band performances, has a touch of nostalgia when he reminisces about playing with polka bands in the 1950s and 1960s.

“It was a fun time when people came to dances.”

Although the dance music scene may have changed, Ruhland and his family are continuing a tradition.

“My father, Albert Ruhland, played the clarinet, as did my grandfather, who also played saxophone,” he said. “My children play clarinet and take part in a German village band.”

The Over 60 Band performs some patriotic tunes. The group is made up almost exclusively of people in the 60s and older. Contributed photo

Music is a large part of Ruhland’s life. In addition to singing with the Minnesota Over 60 Band, he performs with the Concord Singers (a German language male chorus) and sings German hymns in a church choir.

New Ulm resident Mary Borstad enjoys the statewide opportunities that playing in bands provides. As a saxophone player, she participates not only in the Over 60 Band, but also in the Lake Crystal Community Band, the Mankato Community Band, and the Lafayette Band. The best part, Borstad said, is “the camaraderie and getting to play in a lot of different towns where I might not otherwise go. It’s interesting to learn more about my homeland, driving the countryside. Most of the time, the performances don’t overlap, but some days I have performances with two different bands.”

If playing with the Over 60 Band sounds appealing--whether it’s clarinet, saxophone, drums, or another band instrument--the band’s members advise musicians to “just try it out.” They said it’s not unusual for people to question whether their playing is up to par, but the band’s musicians encourage a potential band member to attend a rehearsal and to take the music home to practice. They said the musician usually will find that the music is not as challenging as feared, and the idea of joining the Over 60 Band becomes more realistic.

Band members usually range in age from 55 years upward (with two St. Paul men currently in their 90s), but the band’s bylaws allow five members to be under age 55. The Minnesota Over 60 Band isn’t only about playing music.

“It’s a very congenial group, and we end the year with a banquet, usually catered, but occasionally potluck,” said Bloedel. Good music and good food--a Minnesota tradition.

For more information about the Minnesota Over 60 Band, contact Bonnie Jaster at or phone 507-317-1974.

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page