At the Iowa Capitol this evening (July 5), the Des Moines Metro Concert Band will close out its 69th season. It will include patriotic tunes, as usual, and something else that is fairly recent: a pitch for donations to keep the historic band going. Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen reports.
It started as the Des Moines Municipal Band Project, presenting 55 musicians, with celebrity announcers and guest soloists, including song birds, an occasional loud motorcycle and freight train whistles. It continues to provide family entertainment as it has for generations.
“I remember as a small child sitting on blankets my parents would bring us kids and we would all be on the hillside watching the concert having a wonderful time. You could play on the cannon, they used to have cannons up at, that we’d jump on.”
Today, Karla Killinger plays in the band. She’s been coming since her father was conductor, joining thousands of admirers on the statehouse lawn and along the broad staircase up to the west portico. In 1950, the band claimed “the largest attendance of any attraction in the city of Des Moines, with the State Fair as the only exception.” Dan Stevenson is the band’s executive director.
“Music Under the Stars is the oldest free concert series in central Iowa and it’s really one, of not a great number, of professional concert bands in the U.S.”
“The Des Moines Metro Concert Band.”
There are older community bands in Iowa, but none can boast a stunning backdrop like this: the statehouse with its gold dome, plus the Des Moines skyline. Music Director Clarence Padilla.
“We hope you enjoy Panorama U.S.A.”
“There’s a wonderful sound of the band hitting the capitol and then coming back to us which is very unique, there is no stage per se but the ambient sound that is produced by where we sit is pretty unique.”
The Metro Band plays a mix of classic and contemporary selections with a splash of red, white and blue. Financial support has been shifting from taxes and trust funds, toward corporate sponsors and private donors. The band is up front with its fan base.
“Now I do need to talk about funding a little bit more for a moment, didn’t used to have to talk about it but now we do.”
Trumpeter Dan Hartzer has gone from being the youngest musician in 1963, to the senior member now.
“It’s just an enjoyable event, its old time Americana, you can go out and enjoy a band concert that is professional quality and don’t often hear, a lot of places have community bands but play a little lower grade of music because they don’t have the professional quality of musicians that this band has.”
In the ‘40s and ‘50s, the band went nine years with no rainout. Tonight, the Des Moines Metro Concert Band closes its season at 7 o’clock on the west steps of the capitol, in exactly the same place where it all started 69 years ago. In case of rain, the concert moves to the Fine Arts Center at Drake. In Des Moines, I’m Rick Fredericksen, Iowa Public Radio News.