Gustavus Wind Orchestra Celebrates 140 Years Posted on May 9th, 2018 by

This weekend the Gustavus Wind Orchestra is having a birthday party. A really big one. Over 175 Gustavus Band and Gustavus Wind Orchestra alumni descend on campus May 11-13 to celebrate this milestone anniversary of the oldest touring collegiate band west of the Mississippi.

The highlight of the weekend will be the opportunity for nearly 200 current students and alumni musicians to rehearse together as a joint ensemble, culminating in a performance at 7:30 p.m. on May 12 in Christ Chapel. The band will be conducted by Douglas Nimmo Professor of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra  James Patrick Miller, Gustavus Wind Symphony Conductor Heidi Johanna Miller, as well as Emeritus Professor and former conductor of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra Douglas Nimmo.

The band spans several generations, with the oldest alumni hailing from the class of 1963 to more recent graduates from the class of 2017. Throughout the weekend alumni and students will make connections and get to know each other through rehearsals, meals, and a party on Friday night featuring the “Bend in the River Big Band” made up of several Gustavus graduates. “I’m most excited about the alumni coming back, playing next to our students and sharing stories about their experiences in the Gustavus Band or Wind Orchestra,” says Miller. “This is a great learning event for our current students and they are really excited.”

The Gustavus Wind Orchestra has a deep history.  The band took its first tour in 1881 traveling by train and horse drawn wagons, a far cry from this year’s tour that included a transatlantic flight to Sweden and Norway. In the 1940’s the band toured three times with famed composer and pianist Percy Aldridge Grainger, and in 1990, the band was the first American ensemble to receive an invitation to present a concert in East Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Saturday’s concert will include current student soloists, conductors, and even a piece composed by junior Charles Barnhouse. It also features some band favorites including Gustavus Holst’s First Suite in Eb for Military Band and Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy. The performance is free and open to the public, and will also be livestreamed.


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