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Two Harbors City Band Makes for Musical Summers

One of the first questions I asked Jim Glaser, President of the Two Harbors City Band for the last fifty-six years, and Larry Saur, who started playing tuba with the band forty years ago, was related to why they felt the band has endured through the decades. Since first or­ganized in 1897, the group has continued to band together through wars, the depression, and the ever-changing tastes of music lovers. Throughout the interview, it became more and more obvious why the band is still to­gether and what they mean to the community.

The Two Harbors City Band is “small-town Americana at its best,” according to Larry. “We have concerts during the summer season when we have a lot of tourists and visitors in the area and the band gets lots of compli­ments on what our programs present.”

Larry was invited to join when he was in his early high school days. “It was an honor to be asked,” he told me. He had been a fan of the band since he was a child, when he would watch two of his brothers (a decade older than him) play the tuba and the trombone in the city’s concerts. His first lesson was with Paul Gauche, who the Two Harbors Band Shell is named after. He took a small hiatus to raise his family but when he returned in 1989, his high school daughter joined as well. Having her play clarinet with him in the band was “a real treat for me,” he said.

Jim Glaser’s two children were also in the band at one time, a trumpet and a trombone. Brasses must be in the family, as Jim plays the Baritone. Jim’s first lessons were also with Paul Gauche, who was an orchestra di­rector for the school, back when he was in 4th or 5th grade. When Paul retired, he directed the City Band for the next thirty-five years.

When these two gentlemen talk about Paul, there is a fondness in their voices. When he retired, he would still appear as a guest con­ductor from time to time until his health went downhill. He still came to listen to the band but would sit in his car nearby and honk the horn after each number, something Jim told me might be a Two Harbors thing. For as long as he can remember, the applause of the concert goers would mix with the honking of horns in a cacophony of appreciation for the music. When Paul was unable to leave his home in Duluth to attend the concerts any longer, the band showed up outside his home to play a private concert just for him.

The multi-generational membership is a point of pride for the band, at one point boast­ing three generations on the stage together. One couple met each other while playing in the city band, got married, and now have two children who play in the city band, proving that love of music can certainly “make the world go round,” as Larry quoted to me.

The band welcomes high school students as it is a great opportunity for the younger players to expand their skills. There is also a stipend scholarship program, courtesy of anonymous donors, to assist the students who participate. But the best reward is they enjoy it. Jim’s fellow tuba player, a senior who won the high school’s John Phillip Sousa Award, said he couldn’t believe how much fun it is playing with the band.

“We mentor them. We help them. It is good for them to see that someone that is older is capable enough to teach and mentor them through the summer,” Jim said. “They see what music can do for them.”

Hearing the band inspires others, as well. When one member retired from his company in Texas, he requested a clarinet for his re­tirement gift. He had seen the band perform when he was staying at his summer place and wanted to participate. At that time, he had never read a note of music in his life. He took lessons from a member of the band and in a couple of years joined the band onstage.

Inspired myself, I grilled my interviewees if they had a bass clarinet, my instrument, in the band. (They do. She’s a high school student and she does very well!) This sparked a con­versation that reminded me of my marching band days in high school. The Two Harbors City Band was an award-winning marching band, having won against the Army, Airforce, and police department in the Open Champion category of the Aquatennial Parade in Minne­apolis in 1964. “For us to beat out a military band was quite a feat,” said Jim. They won two more times before shifting into a concert only band.

If I purchased a bass clarinet, I would not have to audition for the band to get in. All it takes is to own an instrument and have the ability to read music. After a few rehearsals I might be able to squeeze into a spot next to the current bass clarinet and the other for­ty-ish members of the band to play on every Thursday starting June 20 and throughout the summer at the Paul Gauche Memorial Band Shell in Thomas Owens Park, located on the corner of Third Avenue and Waterfront Drive in Two Harbors. This includes a date on Two Harbors Heritage Days, where the audience has been up to a thousand concert goers.

“Come and visit us, come and see us, come to the concerts, come and join us on stage,” Jim asks of the music lovers and musicians in and outside of the community.

I want to thank Jim and Larry for their time. Their enthusiasm and experiences were instrumental (see what I did there?) in the creation of this article. I also want to thank the members of the Two Harbors City Band. To quote Trey Anastasio “Ideally the point of music is community, not the player. Mu­sicians are simply channels to link the audi­ence to the music and to each other.” Thank you for all you contribute to your community and for being one of our favorite channels.

Feel free to reach out to me at sarahwritesnsj@yahoo.com with news we should news about!

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