A concert commemorating the Centerville Municipal Band’s 150th year will take place next week.
The anniversary concert will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 27, in the band shell with a social hour to follow. The concert will feature a commissioned piece titled “The Swashbucklers” by Rob Romeyn. The rain location is Simon Estes Auditorium.
Director Tyler Morgan said musicians who want to play can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Centerville Municipal Band Facebook page. Instruments are available for borrowing, and the rehearsal will be at 7 p.m. the night before, Wednesday, June 26, in the high school band room.
Morgan said the band’s longevity is cause for celebration.
“Back in the day every single town had a band,” Morgan said. “Cincinnati, Exline, even the town of Brazil had their own band. And nowadays it’s harder and harder to find, and it’s just a testament to the deep foundation of music that we have in our community.”
Morgan said one of his favorite aspects of municipal band is that it brings together musicians of different ages and backgrounds for a community endeavor.
“One of my main joys of the way the band has existed is that parents and children and multiple generations are playing together, and it’s just one of the greatest things I can think of,” he said.
For example, his mother, Kae Morgan, played in high school but said she didn’t feel quite bold enough to play in the municipal band anymore after she graduated.
“I didn’t have my own horn, so I thought it would be too complicated,” she said.
But when her son got old enough to play, she took the leap and borrowed a bass clarinet from the school.
“He played bass clarinet too, so I thought that was fun,” she said.
She said she had no idea then that her son would become the band’s director or write a book titled The History of Bands of Centerville, Iowa. In another connection to the band’s history, she now plays former director John Holeman’s bass clarinet, which she purchased a few years ago.
Municipal band runs in other families, too. JeNel Allen Barth, who played as a high schooler, borrowed her daughter’s saxophone to rejoin the band a few years ago. When her daughter, Julianna, got old enough to play in the band, her mother borrowed a saxophone from the school. The two sit together at practices and performances.
“It’s really cool,” Barth said. “She is so much better than me, which I think is fabulous — which she should be, because I play my horn basically once a year during the summer! It’s been fun just to play together, and she’s really good about helping me.”
While most municipal band musicians are amateurs, the ensemble’s oldest member made a career out of playing his instrument. George Larry Freeborn started playing the trombone in the fifth grade about the time the Second World War was ending. When a teacher asked if he was interested in the trombone, Freeborn said, it appealed to him because his friend’s father was playing trombone in the Navy during the war.
“Life has been exciting ever since then,” Freeborn said of his decision to pick up the trombone. “I have been a lot of places in this world and met a lot of professional musicians and people.”
After getting his start as a musician in Centerville, Freeborn traveled the country and the world playing trombone in the Air Force. He played backup for Elvis Presley in Frankfurt, Germany. He met his wife, Ingrid, while playing at a festival in Wiesbaden, Germany.
“I was doing a job I always felt I was meant to do, entertaining people,” Freeborn said.
In 1977 Freeborn returned to Centerville with his family and has played in the municipal band most summers since.
Alan Sells estimated he started playing in the municipal band 36 years ago, though he may have missed some summers here or there.
“I just enjoy playing,” Sells said. “It is just so much fun to get together with the kids — it keeps the sharpness going.”
Sells is a third-generation trombonist and uses his mother’s trombone. His grandfather played for the Chariton municipal band. Sells, who played as a student at Simpson College, said he enjoys the connections at municipal band, such as playing in the same section as his former elementary band teacher, Suzanne Lary.
“It’s been kind of neat to see the people come through the band over the years,” Sells said. “I would just encourage those people who maybe have thought about playing and never taken the step to go ahead and take that chance. It’s a lot of fun.”
Tonight’s muni band concert
The Centerville Municipal Band will perform this Thursday, June 20 at the Bandshell on the Centerville Courthouse lawn. The concert will begin at 8 p.m. There will be an ice cream social sponsored by the Red Rays Swim Team. The program will include “El Relicario,” “Rough Riders,” “The Doors in Concert,” “The Dam Busters,” “The Syncopated Clock,” “Harry Potter,” “The Final Countdown,” “John Williams: Movie Adventures,” and “Air For Band.”