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Local community band to give first concert Nov. 18 at Holmes

About a year and a half ago, a letter to the editor appeared in the pages of this newspaper, calling for the formation of a new city band.

That letter was the spark that eventually led to the creation of the Lakes Area Community Concert Band, which will give its first official concert on Saturday, Nov. 18. Scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., the free concert will take place on the stage of the Historic Holmes Theatre.

Band member Rick Olson, who plays the clarinet, said he provided the initial impetus to get the group together, distributing flyers around the community that stated there was a new community band forming.

"I talked with Dr. Robert Watson (the author of the original letter, who also serves as director of the local 'big band,' Doc & The Scrubs), and got some hints about how to do it," Olson said.

He also found a wealth of information on the Internet --particularly the Web site of the Chicago-based North Shore Concert Band, which provided extensive information on how to get a band started, find the right conductor, etc.

A meeting was held in early June, 2005, with about 5-6 people present.

"We just sat down and talked about (forming a band)," Olson said.

From there, it wasn't long before Olson found the right person to fill the conductor's job -- his former high school band director, Gene Gaffney.

"I was so nervous -- I didn't think he would do it," Olson said. Gaffney had organized a summer concert band in the early 1980s, for one summer, but it disbanded.

"He (Gaffney) said he would do it if all he had to worry about was the conducting," Olson said.

"You always miss it," said Gaffney, who served as the DLHS band director from 1968-98. "You miss the music, and the people creating it. A lot of my former students are also playing here (with the community band), and that makes it even more fun."

And so a band was born. As the group began holding weekly rehearsals throughout this past summer, its ranks grew to a current membership of about 30 musicians.

"We have flutes, oboes, clarinet, saxophones, French horn, trumpet, trombone, baritones, tubas and percussion -- but no strings," Olson said.

"The rehearsals have been going very well," Gaffney added. "These are all working people, with busy lives -- it's huge for them to give up an hour and a half every Thursday night (for rehearsals)."

Eileen Mooney, who, like Olson, played clarinet in her high school band -- and also performed with Gaffney's community band 10 years ago -- said coming back to music after so many years away was "like riding a bike."

"It's really fun to play again, and the musicians here are just awesome," she said. "A lot of them have played (in bands) year round -- they have a lot of experience.

"I really missed being in a band," Mooney added.

Olson said getting the opportunity to play in a band again was a big part of the attraction for him as well.

"It's just a way for us older musicians (i.e., out of high school) to have a place to play and perform," he said. "That's kind of nice."

Gaffney said he feels the band is more than ready for its inaugural concert.

"The rehearsals have been going well -- I'm confident we're ready," he added. "I hope the community supports us. We have an interesting program, with a lot of familiar music -- English, American, European... a lot of variety."

Some of the tunes expected to be included in the Nov. 18 event are a "Tribute to Irving Berlin," "Sea Songs" and "Pie Jesu."

Gaffney said the board of the community band is also working diligently to sort out its future concert schedule.

"After this concert, we're going to take a little break for the holidays, then start up again in February," he added.

The eventual goal, Olson said, is to give 2-3 concerts per year.

"Rehearsals will start about 10 weeks prior to each concert," Gaffney added.

For more information, contact Rick Olson at, or by telephone at 218-847-4281.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454