HOWARD LAKE A Mid-Minnesota Band rehearsal, which takes place weekly at the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School band room, is rich with musical selections some new, and some that are more “vintage.”
Another thing very obvious is that these musicians also function as comedians throughout the entire rehearsal process.
They’re a close-knit group, and can, and do razz each other with shared memories and one-liners at rapid-fire tempos.
The band is currently in its 40th season, and is under the direction of the primary jokester himself, Kendell Kubasch.
Kubasch, of Howard Lake, is one of the band’s eight founding members.
He recalls that during the band’s first season in 1977, additional musicians “trickled in,”and the group was ready to perform by the following spring.
The group, originally directed by Dave Gleason, initially held the moniker, Wright County Band.
As the group grew, however, it wanted to be more inclusive of members representing McLeod and Meeker counties. The Wright County Band then morphed into the Mid-Minnesota Concert Band.
Kubasch estimated that over the past four decades, 300 musicians have lent their musical stylings to the group.
“Many members have passed away or moved away,” Kubasch said, “and some weren’t born when we started.”
In addition to Gleason, Patty Munson, and Danelle Lasteen have served as band conductors.
Kubasch said he’s held the conductor position for about a dozen years. He claims he has kept the position simply because he keeps showing up.
The band’s performance schedule is somewhat fluid it performs during some regional festivities, and in many area nursing homes. The band’s upcoming events are frequently listed on its Facebook page.
The Mid-Minnesota Concert Band, currently comprised of approximately two dozen musicians, tackles music from many eras marches, show tunes, big band classics, and chart-toppers from a multitude of generations.
Currently, the musicians indicated that a Beatles medley is a real favorite, although Kubasch is quick to point out younger band members had to YouTube the group to discern who they were.
The musicians and conductor are open to musical suggestions, and learned several polkas at the publics’ request.
Kubasch said their signature pieces do change from time to time, but currently include “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and “Closer Walk.”
Some facts that few people may know are that the Mid-Minnesota Band members are philanthropic, as well as resourceful.
“We don’t need money for much,” Kubasch reported. “When we buy music, we make it available for others to borrow. We also give scholarships.”
Band members routinely save and recycle music and instruments destined for dumpsters.
The Mid-Minnesota Concert Band welcomes new musicians. The only criteria is competence on their instrument of choice, and a love for music. Age is not an issue; the band has had members as young as seventh grade, and as old as 86. Information about joining the band is available on its Facebook page or in the HLWW Community Education guide.
Who is making all the music?
• Kendell Kubasch, Howard Lake, saxophone and current conductor, charter member. Kubasch encourages all musicians to come and make music a “lifetime love.”
• Nicole Weisenburger, Waverly, trombone, piano, drumline, member since 2016. Weisenburger’s best memory so far is performing at her grandmother’s assisted living home. The following day, her grandma called her, very proud. She told Weisenburger she couldn’t even get down to breakfast because of all the people telling her how much they loved the band.
• Keith Berndt, Winsted, trombone, member for 23 years. Berndt’s favorite piece of music is a trombone trio arrangement of “Slippery Gentlemen.” He wanted people to know “music can be a lifelong endeavor.”
• LeeAnn Carlsted, Howard Lake, baritone sax, flute, piccolo, alto sax, charter member. Carlsted enjoys playing marches, and said it is possible for former musicians to pick up their instrument and play after years of not doing so.
• Sue Bjorstrom, Dassel, euphonium, member for 26 years. Bjorstrom jokes she has stayed with the band because the members are her only friends. “Come join us, it’s so much fun,” she exclaimed.
• Gary Foster, Hutchinson, trombone, bass trombone, member for 3.5 years. Foster has been playing music since 1980, and claims Dixieland Jazz as his favorite genre. One of his favorite things is seeing listeners appreciating or being touched by the band’s performances.
• Marshall Carlsted, Howard Lake, drums and percussion, member for 36 years. Carlsted said he has always enjoyed the fun, friends, and music made with the band. His favorite memory recalled a performance at the Waconia Assisted Living Center. He enjoyed “watching the residents sing along, and having tears roll down their cheeks.”
• Laura McKeen, Buffalo, alto sax, member for 2.5 years. McKeen said picking up an instrument after years of not playing is somewhat like getting back on a bike. She said being a member of the band provides a nice break in her week, and that she always leaves rehearsals whistling or humming.
• Jamie Gray, Waverly, alto sax, new member. Gray said his reasons for joining the band include “brain exercise, musicality and community.” Gray said, “cultivating your passion is cool.”
• Jeff Micka, Hutchinson, tuba and sousaphone, member for 16 years. “I can’t play football anymore,” Micka said, “I can’t play baseball anymore, and I shouldn’t play softball anymore. But I can still play music.”
• Pat Casey, St. Paul, tuba, member for 8 years. Casey said his favorite piece of music the band plays is the Helena Polka, and his favorite memory of the band is “when I heard them for the first time.”
• Charles Ulrich, Hutchinson, trumpet, member for 1.5 years. Ulrich said it is fun to play in a group, and you will enjoy your playing more and more as you practice and improve. He listed his favorite memory as the time Kubasch fell off the stage while directing at an event in Silver Lake. (More on that later.)
• Thomas Maresh, Winsted, horn, member for 10 years. “There’s nothing more magical than the moment you realize that when you’re in a group like this, the whole is truly more than the sum of its parts,” he said.
• Thomas Zander, Maple Lake, trumpet, member for six years. Zander considers being in the band his form of recreation. “We play great music and have a wonderful time doing it,” he said. “It’s a good way to give your talent back to the community.”
• Shannon Maresh, Winsted, flute, member for 10 years. Maresh said it has been nice picking up her flute again for the first time since her college days, and enjoys their current Beatles medley music. “I grew up listening to these songs, and it is enjoyable to be able to play them with a group,” she said.
• Susie Zander, Maple Lake, flute, piccolo, member for four years. Zander encouraged future musicians by stating, “Always reach for the next level. Play with people better than you to make yourself a better player.”
• Bill Tregaskis, Buffalo, clarinet, member for two years. Tregaskis wanted to encourage musicians of all ages to “just stay with it.” His favorite memory happened when he was told the clarinet section (a tiny group) was drowning out the trumpets.
• Joey Berg, Howard Lake, trumpet, member for 39 years. Berg wanted people to know how fun it is to play music for a lifetime. He enjoys the appreciation expressed by listeners.
• Jami Berg, Howard Lake, trumpet, member for 15 years. Berg jokes his father, Joey, “begged” him to join the band. His favorite current piece is the Beatles medley.
(Members Kristin Bayer and Laura Pieper were not present for the interviews.)
Now, about the “Kubasch falling off the stage” incident, which several members mentioned among their favorite memories: it’s 100 percent true.
Kubasch is arguably an energetic and charismatic conductor. At the event in question, he was really getting into the music.
“I went off to dance with a lady in a wheelchair,” he said, “and I fell over the curb, narrowly missed a metal sign, and landed in a bush.” Despite that moment of potential pain and embarrassment, Kubasch quickly got back to business, and wanted to make one thing clear. “The band played on,” he laughed.