Community gathers to celebrate 50th anniversary with Chatfield Brass Band

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chatfield Brass Band conductor Carmen Narveson leads the band during the 50th anniversary concert held this past Saturday, June 29, on the Potter Auditorium stage.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Gabe Perkins, son of Chatfield Brass Band founder Jim Perkins, tells about his father and what it was like to grow up as the son of a man given to what others called "wild ideas."

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS The Chatfield Brass Band stands following its final number of the 50th anniversary concert.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Chatfield and the rest of the world: Oh, so thankful for the Family Circus.

“Our family was literally like the cartoon ‘Family Circus,’ where the mom kept everything together. My mom had three boys to raise – me, my brother and my dad,” quipped Gabe Perkins. Perkins recalled his childhood and the birth of the Chatfield Brass Band (CBB) and its accompanying Chatfield Music Lending Library, all kept functioning smoothly courtesy of his mother, Margaret Perkins, who weathered her husband’s wild idea to start a community band, all without music, instruments, equipment or people to play it. She then survived the ensuing years when everything he did revolved around the Chatfield Brass Band and its schedule.

Standing before an audience attending the 50th anniversary concert held in Potter Auditorium this past Saturday, June 29, Gabe went on to describe Jim Perkins’ determination in promoting the band to everyone he met, from the small-town musician to legislators and famous composers, inviting just about everyone to join the band, or if the occasion called for it, to stay overnight at their home.

That meant that if the man who came to be known as “Mr. Bandtown” met someone who had importance to music, they were coming to Chatfield to hear the CBB perform, “but they just didn’t know it yet…my father was a tireless promoter of the band,” Gabe joked. “My mom went on to operate the first unlicensed bed and breakfast in Chatfield.”

He told how, as a child, he and his brother, Justin, grew up in a “playpen” of stacks of cardboard boxes of sheet music sent to their father after it was learned that a man in Chatfield with a twisted waxed mustache was collecting to start up a band, as the town had a long history of bands forming and marching up and down Main Street but didn’t have such a thing in 1969.

Once the CBB was formed, the opportunities that arose for the Perkins family and the band were unique and auspicious, such as performing for President Jimmy Carter’s arrival in Rochester in the mid-1970s, playing at the grave of John Philip Sousa with the United States Marine Band, announcing the arrival of and getting to meet various dignitaries, and more recently, hosting the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America and playing alongside the Minnesota State Band right here in Chatfield on the Potter Auditorium stage.

“And the ‘Family Circus’ continued on vacation,” recounted Gabe, telling about how he nearly got to tour Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, how his father packed to be prepared to approach anyone they met while on vacation with information about the CBB, and how the Fourth of July was known in their household as “The Longest Day,” because the day started out with the band performing in the Cherry Grove parade and ended up in a completely different community at the end of the day, six parades later and far-flung from Cherry Grove.

He added, “My dad was the original Energizer Bunny. He kept going and going. I think he slept only about three to four hours a night. He was also a Taurus, and the sign for a Taurus is a bull. He would wear you down until you said ‘Yes, I will be in the band.’ My mom…their first date was in January of 1958. He kept calling and calling until she finally gave in, and on their date, he sat silent with a huge grin on his face. He told her, ‘You’re going to marry me in August.’ They didn’t get married in August 1958, but they did get married in August 1959. But contrary to the next song, Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way,’ Dad didn’t always get his way. There was the trip we went on where my mom packed for us, and when we got there, my dad was looking for his mustache wax. He said to my mom, ‘Margaret, where is my mustache wax?’ And my mom said, ‘Jim, I do not have a mustache, nor do I need mustache wax. Pack your bag yourself.’ The score? Dad, zero, Mom, one.”

The younger Perkins concluded that even though his father played his last trombone note at the age of 54, the family occasionally felt his presence. “A few years ago, my mom celebrated her second 40th birthday…we went out for dinner, and there’s a trombone hanging right over our booth. Our family is so thankful for all the friends, for the directors, all the people who have played in the band.”

Before Gabe’s remarks, the “Music and Memories” anniversary concert encompassed Dan Hollermann serving as master of ceremonies and opened with the KSMQ “Off 90” video entitled “The Chatfield Brass Band and Music Lending Library.” Next, CBB’s board president, Ellen Grabau, gave the welcome and the band played “The Star Spangled Banner” as its customary first piece, then “America the Beautiful” and a rousing “Washington Post March,” which incited a baby in the front row to get his big band groove on.

Mayor Russ Smith then spoke. “This band includes the chief of police and the world’s biggest Beatles fan…people from Chatfield and beyond,” he said. “We applaud the music, but I think we should applaud the people sitting in the band. I want to thank everyone, past and present, who’s been in the band. I’m not Norwegian, but I’ll give the best Norwegian compliment I can – ‘The Chatfield Brass Band…they’re not too bad.’”

Following Smith’s words, Hollermann offered, “I’d like to give a great big ‘thank you’ and ‘hallelujah’ to Margaret Perkins, because along with being his partner in life, she was Jim’s partner in the Chatfield Brass Band.”

He then called for Margaret’s grandson, Ryan Perkins, to stand up, then pointed out the cardboard cutout of Jim Perkins perched on the south end of the stage. “That’s a trombone that Ryan’s playing, and it’s the same trombone that Jim’s holding in that picture.”

After Gabe’s tribute, the band struck up Sinatra’s “My Way,” then moved on to “Mister Bandtown U.S.A” — written in memory of Jim by James “Red” McLeod, and “The Klaxon March” by Henry Fillmore and then closed the concert with an arrangement of “Auld Lang Syne” and what Hollermann called “the granddaddy of them all,” Sousa’s “Stars & Stripes Forever,” after which the audience gave the band a standing ovation.

Also, a new video of the band produced by Todd Beck was presented for the band’s half-century anniversary,

The 2019 CBB roster includes Narveson, Beth Hennessy, Heather Kruggel, Tanya Roloff, Lori Winkels, Brianna Zabel, Earl G. Heartt, Barb Ames, Nathan Davidson, Myrthis Griffith, Sue Hollermann, Amy Koenigs, Damien Moore, Jenni Myers, Theresa Hayden, Susan Johnson, Katie Kuisle, Tracy Youngberg, Steve Strange, Steve Strickler, Tim Biren, Megan Hammon, Duane Newell, Sharyol O’Connor, Jerry Barrett, Dawn Buck, Zack Fox, Shane Fox, Kristina Rowley-Hollermann, Maynard Thompson, Mike Cramer, Ellen Grabau, Larry Krob, Jim McMullin, Ryan Perkins, Tim Peterson, Mike Moriarty, Bob Gerber, Dan Hollermann, John Goutcher, Shelley Hilsman, Mark Myers, Gabe Perkins, and honorary members Vern Anderson, Mike Erickson, Karen Huckstadt, Carol Lenz, Barb Peterson and Van Winkle.

The Chatfield Brass Band, Inc., 2019 board of directors is comprised of President Ellen Grabau, Vice-President Susan Lorenzen-Johnson, Treasurer Jim McMullin, Secretary Theresa Hayden, member at large Heather Kruggel, library manager Jerel Nielsen, band director Carmen Narveson, band librarians Shelley Hilsman and Steve Strickler, and driver and equipment handler Wayne Eickhoff.

The Chatfield Brass Band is open to anyone who would like to join – from high school student to senior citizen – and rehearses on Thursday evenings, fall through spring to prepare for the annual “Concerts in the Park” music series held in Chatfield’s City Park and for the Christmas concert it presents to kick off the merriment of the Christmas season. For more information, log onto the CBB website at