As the sun set over the valley, musicians made their way into the Gering Junior High band room Tuesday evening. The Gering City Band rehearsed for its upcoming Concert in the Park ahead of the Independence Day Show Tuesday, July 2.
The Gering City Band started in 1887, under the direction of George Luft as it was selected to perform at the Fourth of July celebration. According to G.L. Shumway’s “History of Western Nebraska,” a problem arose when the musicians did not have enough instruments, so the Kimball band offered to loan their instruments.
Forty-five musicians perform in the band from current students to adults in their 80s.
Returning for his 23rd year as director of the summer band, Randy Raines enjoys continuing his musical involvement in the community.
“This is my 23rd year, but that’s half of my teaching career because I’ve been teaching for 45,” Raines said.
Ahead of the July performance, the city band has three more rehearsals. For a month and a half, musicians rehearse to perform for their community.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s not something that takes up your whole summer,” said Dusty Lana, 60, a tuba player in the city band. “You dedicate six weeks to it because by the middle of July, you’re done.”
Since rehearsals are once a week and the musicians have a packet of sheet music to learn, Lana said sight reading is important.
“I like it at as a tuba player because we play a lot of marches and stuff that’s fun, famous marches, patriotic songs and things people want to hear in the park,” he said. “We have 30 to 40 pieces in our folder and so you have to get good at sight reading, which is good for the younger people.”
One of the younger city band members is 17-year-old Kaitlin Bohlman, who plays the bass clarinet. Bohlman said Raines asked her to join and from her involvement, her music skills have improved.
“I was already in the high school band and Mr. Raines was already my director, so he asked me to go into it and I tried it,” Bohlman said. “Being one of the younger people, it’s taught me a lot. The difficulty of it is different because the high school pieces are a lot different than city band. They’re definitely harder and I’ve learned different notes and I’ve got a lot better playing in the city band.”
Throughout their summer concerts, the band takes the stage in the Legion Park band shell multiple times, but some band members are worried that tradition could go away. One of those members is 25-year-old Emily Hauck.
“They’re thinking about tearing down the band stand,” Hauck said. “We need it. Where would we play?”
Hauck has been a member of the city band for 10 years and said her involvement has kept her in music.
“After high school, it keeps you playing and you get to meet new people,” she said. “In high school I was worried about getting every beat right, but in this, you know what the song sounds like.”
Several city band members have been playing for 40 to 50 years. For the band’s oldest member, Doug Chappell, 84, city band keeps him practicing.
“I play in the college band and when you play trumpet, if you don’t play in the summer you can practice everyday but you tend not to do that,” Chappell said. “Then you get out of practice. City band helps me play in the summer.”
The Gering City Band will begin its annual “Concerts in the Park” series June 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Gering’s Legion Park. Their Tuesday, July 2 special concert will feature patriotic songs.
Songs in the city band’s concert repertoire include: “Them Basses,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Second American Folk Rhapsody,” “Semper Fidelis” and “La la Land.”
The band’s annual Oregon Trail Days concert will be at Five Rocks Amphitheater Friday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. Their final summer concert is Thursday, July 18 at Legion Park.
Admission to the concerts is free.