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Strike up the band!

Marquette City Band launches summer concert series with first drive-in

Attendees, placed 6-feet apart, sit back in the comfort of their lawn chairs and listen to the classical tunes from the city band. (Journal photo by Jackie Jahfetson)

MARQUETTE — Kicking the drumroll off with a special thank you to local heroes, the Marquette City Band convened for its first summer performance Thursday evening at Marquette Commons with a full audience in attendance for a drive-in concert to allow proper social distancing.

With musicians placed 6-feet apart from one another, the band presented selections from the late Eino Olander’s march “Hope Starts Here,” which is a dignified piece of music, Marquette City Band Director Steve Grugin said, and “Heroes Near and Far” that consists of five short movements with inspiring titles. Honking their car horns for applause, attendees perched lawn chairs in the bed of their trucks and trained their ears out the window to hear the rich sounds of marching tunes. Families and other individuals placed blankets in the grass — 6-feet apart — to lay out and hear the first lively concert of the season.

“In our upcoming performances, we want to acknowledge and thank our local health care workers and frontline employees who have been the real heroes during this pandemic,” Grugin remarked.

The Marquette City Band Board of Directors has been developing some ideas to fulfill the community’s musical needs and the first performance of the season drive-in concert was just the ticket, Grugin said. Though the drive-in debut concert was tailored toward social distancing requirements, the summer concert series will continue at Presque Isle with benches placed 6-feet apart. Audience members bringing their own chairs are expected to place them in locations away from other attendees to avoid large influxes of people. Signs listing instructions will be posted at Presque Isle Park.

Marquette resident Anna Mendelin enjoys coming out to the summer concert series and listening to the Marquette City Band as she used to play the French horn in the band during her high school years. Summer performances promote music in the community and provides a “good summer exercise” for not only upcoming musicians but retirees as well,” Mendelin said.

Marquette City Band Director Steve Grugin leads the ensemble into a march, saluting local heroes with music during the band’s first performance of the season Thursday evening at Marquette Commons. The band kicked off its summer series with a drive-in concert and will continue its performances at Presque Isle Park. (Journal photo by Jackie Jahfetson)

“I loved it. I didn’t think there were going to be any concerts this summer and this venue worked really well … and they’ve got a great band so I really appreciated it,” she said. “They used to do car concerts on the island back in the ’50s so I remember going to those concerts with my parents sitting in the car and honking the horn so it’s kind of a throwback.”

Mendelin brought her friend and former Marquette resident. Lois Ellefson, who nows lives in Florida, to the concert and they both enjoyed the heroic pieces of music.

“It’s a good way for people to get out and enjoy the summer,” Ellefson said, who also played the saxophone in the Marquette City Band during high school.

The band consists of 50 people, which is a little smaller of a group than usual but the lower number of musicians is necessary with the current health situation.

Grugin noted that the social distancing is something that everyone is getting used to and it’s an added challenge to project a full sound, but the band is prepared to comply with the guidelines in order to continue playing music.

“We want to continue providing free public concerts to the people of Marquette, which has been the (Marquette) city band’s mission since the 1930s,” Grugin said. “In particular, we hope to bring some joy to those who have really been suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides our public concerts, we are also planning to play at some local nursing homes and assisted living facilities — outdoors and socially distanced, of course.”

Community bands are an outlet and necessary, especially during difficult times, he added.

“I’m a real fan of community bands and the opportunity for adult musicians to continue playing their instruments beyond school and being able to provide music to give to the community,”

The summer concert series will resume at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 4 at the Presque Isle Band Shell where the band will play patriotic classics and popular music from the World War II era. In case of precipitation, concerts may be rescheduled for the following day.

For more information and to view the Marquette City Band’s full summer schedule, visit marquettecityband.com or its Facebook page.

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