MARQUETTE - Pat Ryan has been playing the tenor and also saxophones in community bands in lower Michigan for 47 years.
A summer resident of Eagle Harbor, Ryan said he is looking forward to participating in a new band when he joins musicians from around the country in playing with Festival Concert Band at Presque Isle Band Shell in Marquette Saturday night.
"I heard about (the festival band) from the Royal Oak Concert Band, which I am part of downstate," said Ryan, who is summering in the most northern township in Michigan. "I am looking forward to coming to Marquette and I think it's going to be great."
The Marquette City Band performs. (Photo courtesy of Nikke Nasson)
Ryan and the others will be taking part in the first Upper Peninsula Community Band Festival, which will include performances by the Negaunee City Band, Marquette City Band and the festival band, which is rehearsing Friday night and Saturday morning to prepare for its debut.
The festival is happening as the Marquette CIty Band - performing since 1887 - grows and seeks ways to add performances to its schedule, said Ben Bohnsack, president of the Marquette City Band's board of directors.
"Along with our mainstay funding through the City of Marquette, we have received a series of additional grants which help us to accomplish these expanded ventures," Bohnsack said. "After being a summer-only band for as far back as we can find, we added concerts in February and May. Our new Marketing Coordinator, Rebecca Jones, is helping us to market what we are doing more effectively, with the result that our audiences are much greater, with nearly 500 people at our Children's Concert (recently).
"This Upper Peninsula Community Band Festival is the last and greatest venture in our expanded season," he said. "We have circulated our brochure to community bands across all of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. We now know that our festival band will include about 50 people from out of town, along with about 30 from Marquette and Negaunee city bands. Beyond the Midwest, people are coming from Kentucky, Utah and California. All are people who enjoy playing in community bands where they live, and many are professional musicians in schools and universities.
"They will enjoy a weekend of rehearsing, special performances, food and making new friends, all culminating in a Saturday evening concert a the Presque Isle Band Shell which will include the Negaunee and Marquette city bands, as well as the Festival Concert Band itself."
Dr. Steven Grugin, Marquette City Band director, said he wasn't sure what the response would be when the idea was launched.
"We really didn't know what to expect," Grugin said. "In a conversation with a band member, I said it could be five, it could be 50 or it could be 500 who respond. I am absolutely pleased with the number we got.
"We have one coming from New Orleans, another from Park City, Utah, and another from Kentucky," Grugin said. "And we have folks from all over the Midwest. I am delighted by all the people who responded."
The public, of course, is invited to the night of music, which will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at the band shell. Bohnsack advises those attending to bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on.
Kaufman Auditorium is the rainout location for the event, Bohnsack said.
Grugin said he's not sure if the concert will become an annual enterprise, but he is sure of something.
"The next time we do it, it won't be the same weekend as the Ore to Shore again," he said with a chuckle.
The festival is made possible by a $2,000 grant from the Marquette County Community Foundation, along with a small registration cost from those who are participating in the festival band.
For more information, visit marquettecityband.com.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.