And the band plays on
Minot City Band performing tunes for many years
The Minot City Band has been together and entertaining people for many years.
This year the band is celebrating its centennial along with Roosevelt Park Zoo’s Community Centennial Celebration planned for Saturday, Aug. 7, in the zoo. That day the band will perform from 11 a.m.-noon.
Jerry Spitzer, band director for 33 years, Joe Alme, who has directed the band for about 10 years, and Ann Jermiason, band president, met with The Minot Daily News on Wednesday to talk about the band and its long history in Minot.
Although 100 years is being celebrated this year, Spitzer said technically the band started 117 years ago in 1904 but got together only now and then. Later the group began meeting and performing on a regular basis.
According to its history, the band was organized by G.C. Humphries “not only to provide entertainment at civic and community functions but also to offer opportunities for Community Music to young and old alike through the medium of the wind and percussion instruments.”
Spitzer said he found information that in 1921 H.J. Colton was president of the band and in 1926 the first Sousa concert was held. “They were pushing that across the United States that everybody do a Sousa concert,” Spitzer said. He said John Philip Sousa, the late American composer and conductor, visited Minot in 1926.
In earlier years the band had a variety of names. Although it hasn’t been verified one of the band’s names may have been The Great Northern Band. In 1962 the City of Minot approved financial support and the name was officially changed to “The Minot City Band.”
Currently, the band has around 50 members. The majority of the group’s performances are in Oak Park. Spitzer, Alme and Jermiason said they have played at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, Milton Young Towers and Henry Towers, on Main Street and at the International Music Camp near Dunseith.
“When I started in the band we played at Oak Park a couple Sundays but there was no band shell there yet. We used to play out by the swimming pool,” Jermiason recalled. She said Roosevelt Park’s band shell was the main place where they performed at that time.
“We always do the State Fair Parade,” Alme added. That is with the exception of last year when the parade was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The parade resumes this year in July.
When they first started performing in the parade the three said they didn’t have their present bandwagon but rode on a flatbed without sides.
That changed. Spitzer got plans for a bandwagon. A fellow in Stanley welded all the steel for the bandwagon and band members got together to add the plywood and paint it.
To become a member of the Minot City Band there is a main requirement.
Alme said band members must be “a pretty good player to start with and then we’re limited to so many people to have in the band because the band is paid by the city so there’s a budget which limits the size of the band.”
Instead of having the director pick everyone for the band, Jermiason said a number of years ago they started having the section leaders pick members for their sections and that helped a great deal.
“As section leaders, we’re responsible for our section — keeping track of who is going to be gone and then finding a substitute,” Jermiason, the flute section leader, added.
Most band members are from Minot although a few are or have been from nearby communities.
“You’re going to find all sorts of people in the band,” Jermiason said. “A lot of people are music teachers. We have college students, some high school students. There’s people who just like to play who don’t have a (music) degree. They’re just good players and like to play.”
Alme said they’ve had doctors, lawyers and judges participate in the band as well.
When he selects music for the band, Alme said there is a rule: “You pick music that the musician likes to play and that the audience likes to hear, and if you can do that, you’ve got it – in that priority. It has worked out so far,” he said.
“You pick a pretty good variety,” Jermiason noted.
Alme said they have to do marches but also add a masterwork in the program. “For sure you have to have some good pop music,” he said. “And when the audience goes home you want them singing or thinking ‘That was great’ or ‘I really liked that one.'”
Spitzer added they want the audience to ask: “When’s the next concert?”
It hasn’t been often when weather or anything else has canceled or interrupted one of their outdoor concerts.
“One year at the Fourth of July concert we made it through the whole concert and then it started pouring rain so we had to get off the stage and go in the back. It was pouring so hard we didn’t even dare go to our cars,” Jermiason recalled. “That was the only time I remember being rained out at a Fourth of July (concert).”
“One year we canceled because of mosquitoes (in Roosevelt Park),” Spitzer recalled. “It was Festival in the Park on the Fourth of July.” He recalled the entire festival was canceled because of the mosquito problem.
Something that was a bit unusual was a time when Alme recalls when they couldn’t find a siren to go with a particular piece called “Midnight Fire Alarm” so they brought in a police car. “He (the officer) moved his car right up by the band,” Alme said. On cue, the police officer sounded the vehicle’s siren.
The band’s first concert this season will be June 18 at 7 p.m. in Scandinavian Heritage Park, Minot. The season will conclude with the Aug. 7 centennial celebration in the zoo.
2021 Minot City Band Performances
June 18: 7 p.m., Scandinavian Heritage Park
June 20: 4 and 7 p.m., Oak Park – Sheri Lien, bassoon soloist
June 27: 4 and 7 p.m., Oak Park – Deanna Carpenter, horn soloist
July 11: 4 and 7 p.m., Oak Park
July 18: 4 and 7 p.m., Oak Park
July 22: 7 p.m. Oak Park – Sousa Concert including Minot Kiwanis Club 100th anniversary
July 24: North Dakota State Fair Parade
Aug. 7: Roosevelt Park Zoo’s Community Centennial Celebration