By Jennifer Kotila
COKATO, MN The Mid-Minnesota Concert Band has been entertaining audiences for 35 years, and is planning a reunion concert at this year’s Cokato Corn Carnival Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m.
“We haven’t missed a year at the Corn Carnival in 35 years,” said current director and one of the founding members, Kendell Kubasch of Howard Lake.
More than 250 musicians have played with the band over the years, according to Kubasch, some years with more than 40 musicians, and some with as little as eight.
Anyone who has played with the band throughout the years is invited to come back and play at the concert during the Cokato Corn Carnival.
Even if past participants do not want to play, they are still invited to come and be with the band that evening to be recognized as a past performer, Kubasch said.
However, the current band asks that those who wish to participate come to the two practices prior to the concert, Monday, Aug. 6 and Monday, Aug. 13 at 7:45 p.m. in the band room of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, 8700 County Road 6 SW, Howard Lake.
The music chosen for the evening will be simple, such as marches and patriotic songs, Kubasch said.
For more information, contact Kubasch at (320) 543-2678 or Marshall Carlstad at (320) 543-2633.
History of the band
The Mid-Minnesota Concert Band was formed in 1977, under the direction of David Gleason.
“(Kubasch) came to me and was interested in getting one started,” Gleason said. There were 11 members at the first rehearsal.
“Half of them just wanted to play the school song over and over again,” Gleason said. He explained to the group that the point of the band was to expand their talent as musicians and learn new music.
In the mid-1980s, there were nearly 50 participants who came to practice every week from areas including Annandale, Dassel-Cokato, Winsted, Hutchinson, Delano, Mound, and Buffalo, Gleason said.
Throughout the years, there have been husbands and wives who have played in the band together, as well as parents and children, Kubasch said.
“I always had a lot of fun with the group,” he added. “There have been a lot of serious musicians.”
For instance, Al Peterson played with the band in the late 1970s and the 1980s. He had played in Hollywood, CA in bands for entertainers such as Lawrence Welk, according to Kubasch.
“It was always a lot of pressure to direct for him being a professional musician,” Gleason said.
Another former member, Kenneth Leander played in the service during WWII and toured with Don Knotts, who was a ventriloquist at the time.
Three former members played with the Minnesota Gophers band, according to Kubasch.
Brian Kotila, a former director, is now a high school band director at Loyola Catholic Schools.
Another former director, Scott Rabehl is the high school band director at Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose.
Other past directors include Charles Roux and Patty Munson.
In the mid-1990s, a young musical protegé from Litchfield, Jason Desens, who attended school at Dassel-Cokato, played with the Mid-Minnesota Concert Band. When he was 10 years old, his mother would take him to the skywalk system in the cities to play his clarinet.
“He was a great young musician,” Kubasch said.
The band has played at numerous events throughout the years, as well.
Schmidt Music Company has an annual summer festival showcasing new music being released, and the Mid-Minnesota Concert Band performed the music for that event one year, Gleason said.
The band also played with Bloomington’s Medalist Concert Band, which is a big band from the Twin Cities area, Gleason added.
One year, when playing at the Minneapolis Aquatennial, the band was introduced by the late Dave Moore, former WCCO news anchor.
Today, there are about 20 members who come from all over the region, including Hutchinson, Litchfield, Watertown, Silver Lake, Delano, and Glencoe.
The band is a familiar sight at many local events, such as the Cokato Corn Carnival, Dassel’s Dairy Berry Days, and Waverly Daze.
It also plays a few concerts each year around central Minnesota, for which it is paid.
The money the band collects at its concerts is used to provide sheet music for it and the HLWW High School Band, and to provide scholarships to the students who have played in the band.
“We’ve provided at least $30,000 in scholarships over the years,” Kubasch said.