Go toPage 2

Celebrating 150 Years of
Minnesota Community Bands

By Jon Schroeder
     Since statehood - and long before
-Minnesotans have place a high value
on both making music and building a
strong sense of community. That history
includes the strong tradition of dance,
drumming and story-telling through
music in the state's Sioux and other
Native American communities.
     Today, that history is reflected in
the state's large and diverse collection of
musical ensembles.  They range from
some of the nation's leading professional
and collegiate orchestras, bands and
choral groups to several thousand church
choirs, school bands and other
community level groups that reflect
Minnesota's increasing cultural diversity.
In this mix are an estimated 150 com-
munity bands. They vary in size and cali-
ber of musicianship. But they are gener-
ally open, without audition, to all partici-
pants.  They include a broad range of
ages and occupations, and they rehearse
and perform purely for their own
enjoyment and the enjoyment of their
Origins traced to European
and military band traditions
        Minnesota's community bands
have their roots in the 19th Century
town bands and orchestras common in
Europe - the source of much of
the state's early waves of immigration.
The wind ensemble repertoire of that
era was much more limited and drew
heavily on marches and other military
band music.
         From statehood to the early
1900's, many small communities in
Minnesota had their own "town
bands."  Sometimes they were referred
to as "Brass Bands" or "Cornet Bands"-
reflecting their dominant instrumentation.
         With few exceptions,
membership in these bands was
limited to men and boys. And they
were generally quite small - by today's
concert and marching band standards
-most no more than ten to twenty
members.  They performed at
community celebrations and their own
concerts, often in a band shell in the
town square or park.
          In the European and military
band tradition, members often wore
uniforms and marched in local
parades.  Sometimes they performed in
town band festivals, mass concerts and
competitions.  Like today's community
bands, they had both a social purpose
for their members and a strong
element of public service.
Rich history reflected in
earliest community bands
          Prior to 1900, there were an
estimated 10,000 community bands
nationally, most of them in small
towns and villages.  This earlier "golden
age" of community bands spawned
several hundred such ensembles in
Minnesota, including a few made up