Every year since 1964 — with one exception — hundreds of instrumental music students have come together for Detroit Lakes' annual All-City Band Festival, which takes place this year on Monday and Tuesday, March 16-17, at Detroit Lakes High School.

The aforementioned exception came in 2012, when the All-City Band Festival was canceled due to a scheduling conflict with the Minnesota state boys’ basketball tournament, in which Detroit Lakes was a participant. As the Lakers lost their quarterfinal contest to the Alexandria Cardinals Tuesday, March 3, no similar scheduling conflict is anticipated.

The first All-City Band Festival Concert was April 28, 1964, and was organized by elementary band instructor Roger Johnson, junior high band instructor Bill Nelson and senior high band instructor Merrill Miller. It was intended to showcase the talents of all local band students in grades five through 12.

Tim Siewert, the director of Detroit Lakes High School's instrumental music program, says the 56th annual festival is expected to draw more than 300 band students from both the high school and middle school, as well as Holy Rosary Catholic School.

"It will include the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade bands from the middle school as well as our two concert bands and jazz band, along with several students from Holy Rosary," Siewert said.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

The students will all gather together Monday, March 16, at Detroit Lakes High School, where they will begin working with guest conductor Betsy McCann from the University of Minnesota.

"She is the director of the Pride of Minnesota Marching Band," said Siewert, adding that she was also the first woman to be appointed director of a Big Ten college marching band.

He said that appointing a guest conductor each year is a way of giving the local students some exposure to "a new perspective, a different way of doing things."

McCann will continue working with the students throughout the festival, which culminates in a Grand Concert at DLHS's Ralph Anderson Gymnasium at 7 p.m Tuesday, March 17 — St. Patrick's Day.

"As we are holding it on St. Patrick's Day this year, the concert will have an Irish theme," said Siewert, adding that they will be including several Irish music selections, such as the enduringly popular "Danny Boy," in their repertoire. Audience members can even "wear green if you want," he said.

If you go

What: The 56th Annual Detroit Lakes All-City Band Festival Grand Concert

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

Where: Ralph Anderson Gymnasium, Detroit Lakes High School, 1301 Roosevelt Ave.

How: Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. There will be no advance sales; all tickets will be sold at the door, starting at 6:15 p.m. For those unable to attend in person, there will be a livestream available; email Tim Siewert at tsiewert@detlakes.k12.mn.us for more information.