Join the Chatfield Brass Band as it hosts 50th anniversary celebration this Saturday

CHATFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO The Chatfield Brass Band performs in the band shell at City Park as part of its summer concert in the park series.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHATFIELD BRASS BAND The bandwagon built in 1975 is shown above carrying band members through the Chatfield bi-centennial parade in 1976. The band continues to use the wagon to visit surrounding communities throughout the summer.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Chatfield Brass Band (CBB) Conductor Carmen Narveson invites all former band members, their families and the community to join the band for its 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday, June 29, at 2 p.m. in Potter Auditorium at the Chatfield Center for the Arts.

“The concert will be filled with music by the Chatfield Brass Band and friends, and will include a slide show, a historical review and a tribute to our late founder, Jim Perkins,” she noted. “We also look forward to recognizing the people and organizations whose involvement and support have contributed to the success of the band.”

A light reception and fellowship time will follow the concert in the Legion Room in the Chatfield Center for the Arts.

Current Chatfield Brass Band, Inc., board of directors Ellen Grabau, Susan Johnson, Theresa Hayden, Jerel Nielsen, Jim McMullin, Heather Kruggel and Narveson issued a similar invitation at the beginning of CBB’s rehearsal year last fall, at the close of the 2018 summer concert series.

A notice in the newsletter published on the CBB website stated, “The Chatfield Brass Band is busy preparing for a brand new season of rehearsals and concerts. As they look forward to their 50th anniversary in 2019, the board of directors has set a goal for ‘50 by the 50th!’ That is, 50 band members by 2019.”

The band is a traditional concert band with woodwinds, brass and percussion. Rehearsals are on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. in the Chatfield Elementary School band room.

“When you join the Chatfield Brass Band, you will find a group of musicians of all ages, from all walks of life, who come to band because they love to play music, love to play their instruments, and enjoy playing in a quality group that is fun and active,” Narveson said.

The band members hail from 15 different communities, and the yearly schedule for the band includes a holiday concert in December, a series of Concerts in the Park in the summer, and parades and concerts in surrounding communities.

Essentially, getting together with others as part of CBB proves that musicians tooting their own horns can – when combined with many others doing the same thing – create some pretty good music in performances given by enthusiastic volunteer musicians ranging from amateur to professional.

An undated program (later found to be from 1976) from one of CBB’s concerts stated, “‘Come to Chatfield and Blow Your Horn’ headlined the Chatfield News on Sept. 18, 1969, and thus was the beginning of the Chatfield Brass Band. Chatfield celebrates Western Days the second weekend in August. A special band representing Chatfield was needed and one was formed. All former Chatfield players were written to. Soon, players from Chatfield and surrounding areas joined together, and thus was our beginning.”

CBB began as an all-male band, led by Chatfield founder Jim Perkins, at its first rehearsal in October of 1969.

“Since then, we have progressed rapidly,” the program stated. “Our next major change was when women were allowed to join in October of 1973.”

The program listed CBB’s first three directors – high school band director Vern Anderson, Dan Risnes, and H. L. Lidstrom, respectively — and omitted the names of the first women to join CBB.

Current longtime band members credit Margaret Perkins with supporting her husband’s cause by opening their home to band members during various CBB events, including when the United States Navy Band performed in Chatfield on April 29, 1975. Former Chatfield High School band director Clarence Arsers’ three sons “had made their careers in the United States Navy Band in Washington, D.C., to make a total of over 60 years’ service.”

During those early years, the band averaged 30 appearances a year. During the winter months, it would hold practices every Thursday night and do special concerts for rest homes in surrounding communities, ice cream socials and even birthday parties.

In the spring of 1974, the Chatfield Brass Band was asked to open the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wis., and it traveled to the Minnesota State Fair for three years in the 1970s. It was also honored to be chosen as the official bicentennial band for Minnesota in 1976.

The band was also honored to perform at John Philip Sousa’s grave on the 50th anniversary of his death, and with just as much prestige, was chosen to welcome President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale to the Rochester Airport in 1978.

Though the band had played to welcome President Richard Nixon in 1970 at the Rochester Airport, this occasion was the first time in Chatfield’s history that a Chatfield band had been specifically asked to play specific tunes for the President and Vice President and the first time a President and a Vice President have ever appeared together in Minnesota.

 The brass band’s familiar red circus bandwagon, seen in numerous parades in southeast Minnesota, was built after Perkins and several band members traveled to Baraboo to see Circus World Museum, home to retired circus bandwagons. Since the band was often asked to appear in parades, it seemed sensible to build something as grand to showcase the band, and a wagon with folding sides and seats was decided upon to make the wagon spacious and street legal.

Fundraising for its construction apparently began in July 1973, as an ad in The Chatfield News asks for “donations of money, materials and time on construction,” adding that “gifts of money or materials are tax deductible.”

In August of 1973, the band made do with a flatbed truck as their stage during the Western Days parade, but by working together, in fundraising and volunteering, the wagon was nearly parade-ready by the end of July 1975.

 In the spirit of promoting band music, parade appearances are still made using the red and gold circus parade wagon – the band is a highlight of Chatfield’s Western Days parade, showing off musicians who perform pieces of music that are well known, or conversely, the only copies of band sheet music for those pieces available in the entire world.

The Chatfield Brass Band Music Lending Library, world famous, is the culmination of efforts to collect usable music, as the 1976 concert program noted, “We draw our music from the Free Band Music Lending Library located in Chatfield. This was started by our band when we discovered the high cost of new music. With so many great older pieces lying around unused, we started gathering from area schools and colleges. Many incomplete sets have now been filled in to form complete sets. Music that may never have been used again is now in use. We lend music to any organization willing to return it to us with a contribution of their unusable music. If none is available, we ask that we be kept in mind.”

Five decades later, the CBB library’s file cabinets are bursting with literally millions of pages of music, some irreplaceable and vintage…there are plenty of ways to toot your horn, if you’d like.

CBB has laid further claim to Bandtown U.S.A. through the construction of the City Park band shell over the winter of 1999-2000, with work done by members and band supporters such as Ray and Vivian Thompson and family. Just a block away, Chatfield’s sesquicentennial celebration began in Potter Auditorium in January 2003, complete with the CBB performing under Narveson and accompanied by indoor fireworks that sparked reflections off the brass instruments.

It was truly memorable, especially if one was onstage or in the front row…and 30 years earlier, on May 29, 1972, the auditorium had been filled to capacity with more than 800 audience members as CBB director Anderson led the high school band as the auditorium was dedicated in memory of George H. Potter.

The band and its town are inseparable, as was shown then and has been illustrated more recently when, this past April, the Minnesota State Band came to town and shared a mass band performance with CBB. Its partnership will also be shown once more as CBB marks its 50 years with exuberance on the Potter Auditorium stage.

Playing vintage music on a Thursday evening, be it for rehearsals or an audience, has been beneficial to CBB musicians past and present.

The 1976 program concluded, “When asked ‘Why join a band?’ many varied answers are received. The most often-heard are ‘I love music’ and ‘It gives me a chance to do something for others by giving a little of my love of music’.”

For more information on the Chatfield Brass Band and its history, stop in at the Chatfield Music Lending Library on Library Lane, log onto the CBB website at, email or stop in to enjoy a concert in City Park this summer.