Community Band turns 5

It's been five years since the Lakes Area Community Concert Band first began rehearsals at Detroit Lakes High School, and its members are ready to celebrate.

It's been five years since the Lakes Area Community Concert Band first began rehearsals at Detroit Lakes High School, and its members are ready to celebrate.

The band is in its final days of rehearsal for a very special concert, which is set to take place at 4 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 20 in the Historic Holmes Theatre.

Though the band has held a concert every year at this time, in conjunction with the annual Holmes Art Show, this year's incarnation will include a very special guest -- trumpet player John Koopmann.

Koopmann, who is a 1986 graduate of Detroit Lakes High School, has been working as a professional musician and band instructor since completing his bachelor's degree in music education at Concordia College in Moorhead.

Currently, he serves as orchestra director for grades 6-12 in the Staples-Motley school district -- but it is his work with the Minnesota Opera for which he is probably best known.


Koopmann has held the position of principal trumpet with the Minnesota Opera Orchestra for the past 14 seasons.

"In 1997, I auditioned for the Minnesota Opera's principal trumpet position," Koopmann says. "I was tied with one other applicant."

They were both given probationary positions with the company, but it was Koopmann who was offered tenure.

"I've been with them ever since," he says.

Though his degree was in music education, his path to becoming a band teacher was a gradual one.

"I didn't get a teaching job right away," he says. "I had a lot of private students, and did some substitute teaching."

He did that for about five years, while taking as many professional music gigs in and around his Twin Cities home as he could find.

"It's hard to find work... there's not a lot of money out there for people who want to play music for a living," he says.


Some of the gigs he has held through the years include performing with the Bloomington Symphony, Metropolitan Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra.

He even played keyboards with a rock band for about a year after graduating from Concordia.

"It was fun," Koopmann says.

Before taking his current position at Staples-Motley, Koopmann taught band in the Shakopee school district. His co-instructor was someone he knew well.

"My wife Cindy and I team taught band in Shakopee from 1997 to 2004," he says. "She's an extremely fine percussionist and all around musician."

But as their two daughters began getting older, they found they had less and less time to spend with them.

"We decided we needed a change of pace," says Koopmann.

So they pulled up stakes and moved to Motley, which was Cindy's hometown.


"We bought a chunk of land next to her parents' place, and built our own house on it," says Koopmann.

Shortly after that, Koopmann learned he had been accepted with the Minnesota Opera, and a year or two later, the position with Staples-Motley opened up.

It was during a competition in which his students were participating that Koopmann ran into a very familiar face: his former high school band instructor, Gene Gaffney, was one of the judges.

"He stopped me and asked if I'd be interested in performing a solo with the community band," Koopmann says.

He never even hesitated.

"I love doing anything with Gene," says Koopman. "It's nice to be under his baton again."

That seems to be the general consensus among members of the Lakes Area Community Concert Band as well.

"Gene is wonderful -- we're so fortunate to have him," says Kendra Mohn, who has been playing bass clarinet with the band "since the first concert."


Mohn, who moved to the community eight years ago with her husband Bill -- a DL native -- said that ever since she met him, he had talked about how wonderful his former band teacher was.

"I kept hearing so much about Mr. Gaffney -- it's been so fun to move here and get to play under him," she says. "He has a definite gift."

Mohn says she has also loved being a part of the band as a whole.

"It's been fun to get to know so many people who love music as much as I do," she says.

In fact, Mohn has done her part to increase the band's membership. When Erik Kiesz, a classmate of hers from Concordia, moved back to Fargo from Sioux Falls, S.D., a year ago, she encouraged him to come check out the band.

An Aberdeen, S.D., native, Kiesz is a computer programmer by trade, but "music has been a part of my life forever," he says.

"I've played piano for 33 years, and percussion for 30 years," he adds.

Though he is kept very busy with his work as a computer programmer, as well as playing percussion with the Park Rapids Community Band, Grand Forks Symphony Band, and Viva La Marimba at Concordia, Kiesz enjoys making the commute from Fargo once a week for rehearsals with the Detroit Lakes group.


"It's a great band, with great people, and a wonderful director," he says.

Kiesz has found his experience with the Lakes Area Community Band to be a rewarding, and challenging one.

"I've been playing in community bands all my life, but after the first rehearsal (with this group), I was impressed," he says. "It's a lot more challenging than I expected -- this is a top class band."

The band's fifth annual fall concert will include a wide range of musical selections, from "The Incredible Flutist" (which is Mohn's favorite) to "Yankee Doodle" and "Riders for the Flag."

Selections to be performed with Koopmann as guest trumpet include "Pie Jesu," "Carnival of Venice" and "La Virgin de la Macarena."

Admission to the 4 p.m. concert on Saturday is free, though there will be a free will offering.

In addition, Koopmann will be leading a free workshop for all musicians (but especially geared toward brass players) from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. that afternoon on the Holmes Theatre stage.

Busy weekend at theater


Saturday's concert will be held in conjunction with the 7th Annual Holmes Art Show, which takes place Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 18-20 in the Holmes Ballroom (across the hall from the main theater).

The opening reception for the art show takes place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, and includes a performance by lakes area singer-songwriter Carrie Sorensen.

The show continues Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Exhibits will include paintings, sculpture, glass and other works by area artists. Artists will also demonstrate various techniques and styles. Find that perfect piece of art for your home, office or a special gift for friends and family.

The theater lobby will be transformed into a holiday boutique, featuring ornaments, prints, cards and many other items, perfect for your Christmas list.

In addition to the concerts by Sorensen and the community band, there will also be a special presentation Friday night in the main theater.

Mixed Blood Theatre and the Congregational Church of Detroit Lakes will present a free performance of the musical "Daughters of Africa" at 7 p.m. Friday.

The show encompasses the music of three centuries of African American women, from Bessie Smith to Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne to Beyoncé.

For more information, contact the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-SHOW (7469), or visit the website at .

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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