Ames band fills the night with music

Abbie Moeller

Ames residents can spend their Thursday nights in the park listening to live, free entertainment, courtesy of the Ames Municipal Band.

The band performs free concerts once a week during June and July, complete with new music and other entertainment.

The band has existed since the late 1800s when the Iowa Band Law was passed, designating a part of city taxes for the support of a municipal band.

About 50 members of the community participate in the band. Membership ranges from high school and college students to business people and band directors. Retired community members and families also contribute their talents, said Paula Anderson, a 33-year-old member of the band.

Anderson’s entire family, including her husband and two children, plays in the band. Because the band plays quite difficult music, she said members must have a good base of knowledge and experience.

“[The] City of Ames has auditions in city hall,” said Mike King, the auditorium and activities supervisor.

Concerts are every Thursday night at 8 p.m. in the Bandshell Park at the intersection of Clark and 5th streets, King said.

Each week has a variety of music in the traditional concert set up, beginning and ending with marches and filled with popular, classical and vocal pieces, Anderson said. Each show also contains a featured performer or group.

Anderson said the performances have a faithful crowd.

“The crowd is huge [and it] spans the generations,” Anderson said. Over 1,000 people attend concerts in the summer. Because of the loyal followers, cancellations are not made until just prior to the start of the concert at the park, she said. The age differences in the performers make for a unique setting in which to play, Anderson said.

“We have musicians for whom this music is new and some who have played it for years,” she said.

She said it is good for the older and younger generations to work together.

Anderson said the audience also benefits from the weekly showings. “[It is] a chance to get together with neighbors and people you know in town. There is a lot of visiting going on,” Anderson said.

Anderson said unique lighting of the bandshell during the show’s final march and the formal wool band uniforms enhance the municipal band’s performance atmosphere.

Uniforms add to the professional look of the band, while the colored lights are the favorite of many children, Anderson said.

Although the June and July concerts are the main performances for the Ames Municipal Band, they also perform at the Memorial Day parade over the Independence Day holiday.

Most of the towns in Iowa have municipal bands ranging from nearly professional to a few people who just like to play, Anderson said, but they all have fun and enjoy the togetherness of the music.

Joe Christian, director of bands at Iowa State, served as guest director recently in the absence of Homer Gartz, director of the Ames Municipal Band. Christian said he directs one concert per year as a guest director.

“I enjoy the players and the setting of the city band,” Christian said.