Summer band music defies 21st century


One of the highlights of my summers is the Marshall city band season, the six or seven weeks when the band performs on Wednesday nights.

The band concluded its 2023 schedule earlier this week. It was a perfect year for weather. The band made the most of it by providing great entertainment.

Their concerts are a special occasion for me and many other Marshall area music fans. There are several things the make them that way.

I could fill a page with things I’ve liked about the band over the years. The four main ingredients are the great music, the park, the people and the community spirit.

The music is very appealing to a wide audience and has plenty of variety. There are pop songs, show tunes, classical selections, medleys, and marches. There’s always a good blend of old and newer music.

The band is in its second year without its longstanding conductor Bob Meffert. Four great conductors have stepped forward to fill the void. They include Southwest Minnesota State University band director John Ginocchio, retired Marshall High School director Wayne Ivers, Marshall schools orchestra conductor Wes Meyers, and Minneota School band director John Voit.

They work well together at every concert, no matter which two or three team up. It always seems like a unified hour-long performance.

I enjoy having at least four or five songs that I already know. It’s equally fun to hear new things, and to listen to descriptions of their history given by the conductors.

Another part of what makes for a great concert is the setting. Liberty Park is my favorite park in Marshall. The bandshell is an important part of it. It’s also a nice place for a walk through my neighborhood. It has a neighborhood feeling.

On Wednesday nights in the summer it all shines forth, first with the city band and then with two Marshall Area Fine Arts Council concerts. This year the MAFAC concerts will be at 7 p.m. next week and the week after. In case of rain, they move the concert to First Lutheran Church.

The outdoor setting is a fun, relaxed way to enjoy music. Small children can play on blankets. Older kids can play on the playground. Older people have a choice between park benches or their own lawn chairs.

Children always have a special kids activity, sometimes a march and on other occasions something different. It averaged about 20 young people throughout the 2023 season.

That’s down from back in the 80s and 90s, but the important thing is that the concerts still attract a fair number of young families. That creates livelihood, an enthusiasm that can make older adults feel younger.

Many people take time to talk with others before and after the concerts. Most audience members have at least one friend or relative who plays in the band. Seeing them perform adds to the evening.

A fourth ingredient to the city band is the sense of community it inspires. This especially comes across when everyone who’s able to stand rises for the national anthem and when the band performs its patriotic Fourth of July concert at Independence Park.

The sense of community is partly due to how the city band is a tradition that goes back many years. The first concerts (before the bandshell was built) took place on Main Street with cars parked facing the stage.

It’s good that city band music survives in the 21st century. If everyone stayed home and got all of their entertainment from electronic media, we’d lose part of our community vitality.

It’s important that we still have community-based arts events, the city band as well as organizations such as Marshall Area Stage Company, the Prairie Dance Alliance and the MAFAC art gallery and gift shop.

Sometimes new people show up at these events. One of the city band concerts in 2023 was attended by a bus tour group from the Twin Cities. They saw a play at Chanhassen Dinner Theater and then ventured out onto the prairie for a traditional summer concert in the park. It was great to see tourism go both ways.

The summer concert season goes fast, but it’s long enough to get plenty of enjoyment. When it’s over, everyone can look forward to having the performances back next year. It’s always worth the wait.

— Jim Muchlinski is a longtime reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent

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