It’s been 50 years since Jim Perkins started the Chatfield Brass Band with just 16 members. At the time, it was an all male brass band, but has since transitioned to a concert band that currently includes men and women of all ages. To celebrate the milestone, the Chatfield Brass Band will hold a special Anniversary Celebration Concert on June 29 at 2 p.m. in the Potter Auditorium, which is located in the Chatfield Center for the Arts.
The Chatfield Brass Band plays a variety of music including marches, numbers from musicals, polkas, rag, jazz and more. In addition to their summer concert series which takes place in Chatfield on Thursday nights during the months of June and July, the band also performs in area parades, gives concerts in other local communities, holds a Christmas concert, and plays at various events and places upon request.
“We just have great people that help and take charge and play well,” Band Director Carmen Narveson said about the band members. Narveson, who plays flute, joined the band in 1988 when she moved to Chatfield, eventually becoming the assistant director and then stepping into the director’s role in 1998. She appreciates the fact that the players, all volunteers, are so willing to give of their time and talents. “They’re very dedicated,” she said. Despite busy schedules, most of the members are present for each concert that the band gives, and Narveson even has a list of people who are willing to fill in if someone can’t make it. The band practices once a week on Thursday evenings with people attending when they’re able. “We’re very tolerant of busy schedules,” Narveson said. “They come when they can.”
The members of the Chatfield Brass Band are a diverse group, with ages ranging from 15 to over 80. Some members are still in high school, others are raising young children, and still others are retirees. Some have been playing their instrument for most of their life while others are picking it back up after a 40 year hiatus or are just getting started for the first time. “We’re very accepting of all levels,” Narveson said. “Everyone’s welcome.” The Chatfield Brass Band has a website with information about the band and how to join, but word-of-mouth seems to still be as effective a recruitment style as when Perkins first started it. People often join the band after hearing about it from a friend or family member.
“I have one person who calls it her weekly therapy session,” Narveson said about the Thursday band practices. “People look forward to coming. They support each other.” The camaraderie is part of what makes the band such a success. In 2003, the band members even worked together to build a new garage in which to house the bandwagon when the barn it was being stored in started to lean and was no longer a good option.
The Chatfield Brass Band is grateful to receive a lot of support from Chatfield as well as the surrounding communities. They’re able to feature guest players thanks to a grant they receive almost every year from the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council. To help with the costs of putting on the 50th anniversary concert, they also recently were awarded an Operation Round Up grant from People’s Energy Cooperative.
In addition to starting the Chatfield Brass Band, Jim Perkins also created the Chatfield Music Lending Library, which is used by band directors and other individuals across the United States and even the world. It now holds between 50,000 and 70,000 pieces of music. After Perkins passed away at the age of 54, volunteers stepped up to help fill his shoes in both the band and the library. “He was totally dedicated to the music library and the band. He had all these visions of how it could be,” Narveson said, “He was quite an amazing guy.”
The 50th anniversary celebration concert will feature a tribute to Perkins, including the performance of a song that was written for him after he passed away. The history of the band will be told along with recognition of its supporters and the many people who have helped it grow and be a success. A reception will be held afterword in the Legion Room at the Chatfield Center for the Arts. “It’s going to be fun,” Narveson commented. Many former band members, families of members who have passed away, and regular concert goers are expected to be in attendance. In addition to the concert, an open house will be held at the Music Lending Library from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Both events are free to the public.
Those interested in more information on joining the Chatfield Brass Band or who are former members looking to reconnect can visit the band’s website at chatfieldband.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.