DENVER (CBS) – When it comes to entertaining crowds in parks, the Denver Municipal Band knows a thing or two.
The band itself is older than the state of Colorado. It was formed in 1861 by Alex Sutherland, a bugler in the Civil War.
“To this day, it’s not only the oldest remaining professional municipal band of its kind, I believe it’s the only fully professional municipal band,” said Peter Vriesenga, a bass trombonist with the band. Vriesenga joined the band in 1984.
It’s one of three groups performing for Independence Eve, finishing up the evening after the crowd hears from MIX, the University of Colorado-Denver’s premier acappella group and the Hazel Miller Band gets everyone up and dancing.
The band was on hand when Civic Center Park was dedicated in 1913. In a sense, the Denver Municipal Band has provided a soundtrack for Colorado’s history. It played at the opening of Red Rocks and Coors Field. It played for the Democratic National Convention in 1908.
“One of the cool things I got to do was we took about eight trumpet players when Coors Field opened,” recalled trumpeter Dan Leavitt. “And we got these long bell trumpets. We got onto the top of the dugout … and we got to play some fanfares.”
For today’s band members, being a part of the organization is really about getting out into the community in parks and schools.
“The Municipal Band has always been free and opened to the public through its whole history,” Vriesenga said. “It has always been sponsored by the City of Denver and we’re really grateful for that.”
Vriesenga said Washington Park may qualify as the band’s home park and Leavitt agreed.
“You’ve got people playing soccer, people playing volleyball and having picnics,” Leavitt said. “And they all come around because they can all hear the band.”
“The thing about all these parks that I’ve seen nowhere else is these audiences are fit for the weather,” Vriesenga said. “They bring their picnic baskets, their chairs, their ponchos, their umbrellas. It can be a torrential downpour where even the band is backed up on stage and there are those loyal audiences that are there.”
And the members take their love of music into the classrooms.
“We just let kids know about the fun of playing music and being a participant,” Vriesenga said. “Just jumping into the game yourself, what’s it feel like to play a trombone, play a trumpet, the fun that it is.”
And fun is what the two musicians expect at the Independence Eve concert.
“Young kids dancing and twirling around and carrying flags in front of the bandstand,” said Vriesenga. “It’s really a unique experience you don’t get in a concert hall.”
CBS4 is a proud partner of the Independence Eve event which kicks off at 8 p.m. on Thursday. CBS4’s Jim Benemann will be hosting.