A Tradition and a Vision for the Future
Every Thursday evening from mid-June through mid-August a crowd of people of all ages gathers under the tall spruces in Thomas Owens Park in the City of Two Harbors to listen to another concert of the Two Harbors City Band. They unfold their lawn chairs on the grass or settle in on one of the park benches. It’s 7:30, a time when the slanting rays of a setting sun are just beginning to cast a yellow glow on the old west-facing band shell. The conductor signals for a drum roll, the crowd rises to their feet, and the concert begins with the Star Spangled Banner continuing a long history of music in the park.
In 1897, a group of 15 musicians held practice sessions in the Two Harbors 8th Avenue Fire Hall. This band was called upon to play at picnics and other community gatherings of the day. Early directors of the band were also skilled tradesmen, and through the years included a railroad boilermaker, machinist, a clerk, and a local blacksmith. Musicians of this day were mostly self-taught men and the term of “wood shedding” was coined as many practice hours were spent in the woodshed behind the house so as not to disrupt the households.
Around 1922 or so, the City Band performed at one of the first Lake County Fairs. By 1925, the Band had increased in size to about 25 men and were invited to play at the Minnesota State Fair.
During the late 1920’s a Duluth & Iron Range Railroad Band was formed in Two Harbors. This Band was composed of railroad employees only and played at various railroad functions and dinners, as well as taking part in civic affairs. At this same time, the City Band was also rehearsing and presenting a few concerts each summer. Due to the Depression in the 1930’s, the railroad band was disbanded and the railroad company very generously donated the larger instruments and their music library to the City Band. Some of this equipment and music is still being used today.
With a larger membership now by the combining of the Railroad Band and the City Band, rehearsals shifted to the basement of the Lake County Court House. Two programs of significance were instituted by the City Band during the 1930′ s that benefited the community. The first was to have instrumental music education set up in the school system. Paul Gauche was hired to head the instrumental music department of the school and also assume the directorship of the City Band. Through the efforts of Paul Gauche and other band officials, and in cooperation of the City Fathers, the second project was completed. In 1937, a band shell was constructed as a W.P.A. program and located in Thomas Owens Park.
During World War II some of the male musicians were called to military service. Two Harbors high school students and women were then welcomed into the City Band. Older musicians brushed up their musical skills and the Band survived. The weekly concerts in the park became tradition and once-a-week reprieve from the worries of war. The City Band continues to remember those who did not return from war by performing at the annual Memorial Day program.
As was mentioned earlier, some of the first members of the band were railroad workers. One such musician was Veikko Ingelin who immigrated from Finland. His mother had stressed that he learn two instruments before leaving his homeland as it would be helpful in getting employment in the United States. Because of his musical ability, Veikko was hired by the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad and initially played the tuba until switching to the flute in later years. His devotion and dedication to the band is still inspiring others today as he did not miss a rehearsal, a concert, or a parade in 54 years. To recognize Veikko’s service, the City Band performs the march “Old Comrades” at the concert nearest his birthday each summer. A further testament to his service is that his son, Paul, is currently a member of the City Band and at age 79 still carries his tuba in the annual Two Harbors Heritage Days Parade.
But probably the most influential and most well regarded individuals in the City Band’s history is Paul Gauche. Paul directed the Band for 35 years, and it was under his leadership that the band progressed to becoming an award winning musical organization not only in concert but also in parades. In his travels, Paul Gauche observed a band shell built in Valley City, North Dakota, that he thought would be beneficial to Two Harbors. Paul was able to obtain the blue prints and convinced the City Fathers to add a basement for its construction in Thomas Owens Park. Because of Paul’s initiative and dedication, the Band Shell was named the Paul Gauche Memorial Band Shell.
Even after his retirement as main conductor of the City Band, Paul would occasionally direct a few selections at the summer concerts. One of those selections he directed was the “Agate City March” composed by Paul in honor of Two Harbors. However, when his health started to fade, he would only be able to attend the concerts in his car and would honk his horn at the end of each piece. When the time came when he could no longer make the trip from Duluth to Two Harbors for the concerts, the City Band packed up all of their instruments and music and traveled to his front lawn to serenade him with a concert.
As you can see, the Two Harbors City Band has a rich tradition of providing music from dedicated individuals and it’s music has been enhanced ever since the construction of the current Band Shell. However, the band shell is now over 70 years old and is showing its age and the City Band is seeking support in providing a “home” for rehearsing and storage of its instruments, uniforms and music.
Our parents and grandparents helped in supporting the construction of the band shell, and except for some cosmetic changes, very little has been done to update the facility. It is now our turn to do our part in making for a better practice facility. As indicated earlier, the City Band has had a variety of rehearsal locations. The fire hall, the courthouse, the old high school, and the Minnehaha Middle School all have been used in the past. The new high school band room that is currently used for rehearsals does not have adequate space to store all of the City Band’s equipment and is located approximately two miles away from the Band Shell.
A committee named Friends of the Band Shell Park has been formed with the vision of providing a new rehearsal area attached to a band shell that will create a permanent “home.” It is hoped that a new facility will be more handicap accessible, will provide adequate restrooms for band members as well as the general public at concerts, and will provide the needed space for rehearsals and storage.
The members of the Two Harbors City Band give so much to the City of Two Harbors and surrounding area. The need to raise the necessary funds for construction is an opportunity to give back. The Committee needs a significant level of private support to build on the City Band’s proud tradition of 114 years of providing music. Your support will keep the tradition going and will enhance the Thomas Owens Park. Your support will ensure that the band marches boldly into the future with talented musicians young and old. The Band deserves nothing less than the best. Please consider making a gift to this project. Help in creating a permanent resource that will keep the tradition and spirit of the City Band alive and support music long into the future.
Music, like other art, nourishes the soul. Happy people usually have access to music and live in places that are attractive to the eye. It is hoped that the band shell with an attached rehearsal hall will become a symbol of the City, an icon of civic pride, a place for concerts, social gatherings, and other activities.
Thank you for your support from the Friends of the Band Shell Park and the Two Harbors City Band where all the tuba players are strong, the flute players good looking, and all the student musicians are above average.