The First John Philip Sousa Memorial Band: a perspective
Mission: Recapturing the spirit of bands at the turn of the twentieth century, when the band was an integral part of the community.
Portions of text in this perspective derive from an article that appeared in the June 26, 2003 issue of the Edina Sun Current. It contains comments from director Scott Crosbie, and long-time members Mary Brindle, and Jeff Shlosberg.
in the glory days of John Philip Sousa, entire communities would
shut down to hear his 80-piece band play when it came to town on the train.
With his famous marches such as Stars and Stripes Forever and Washington Post, Sousa earned himself the status of possibly the most famous band in the world at the turn of the century. I suppose hed be like the Beatles were in the 60s. Sousas music lives on through the instruments of an all-volunteer band that has been entertaining Twin Cities audiences for 33 years. If its not Sousa that we play, [we] make sure that its great and fun and crowd pleasing. Thats always been kind of our mantra; audience comes first. The First John Philip Sousa Memorial Band was founded in 1970 - the year that Scott Crosbie graduated from Edina High School. Myself and a bunch of friends from Edina Concert Band got together that summer and I purchased 50 uniforms from Buffalo High School for $3 apiece, Crosbie said. So we loaded those up and brought them home and went down to Groth Music Store and bought a bunch of marches, and we had a band.
When We Started
About 50 people were a part of the original band, which, at times called itself Band on Wheels. Because wed just get in our cars and go someplace unannounced, form up, march down a neighborhood street to a park and play a little concert. It was fun because it was spontaneous. We just played a little concert, got in our cars, and left. Surprised and sometimes confused listeners would ask the band members who they were and where they came from, but the Band on Wheels wouldnt tell. It was totally nuts, he said. Its what you do when youre 18 years old, I guess. After a few years, the band decided on a name change. Most of our marches were Sousa and we all just loved Sousa anyway, so we all just thought lets just make it John Philip Sousa Memorial Band, said Crosbie. With permission from the Sousa family, our name became the First John Philip Sousa Memorial Band.
The City of Edina helped the band by providing it with some instruments and music, and the Edina Lions Club agreed to purchase a $30,000 showmobile for the band to use. The Edina Foundation also supported the band in 1974 by purchasing some old-time-looking costumes - the same design that the band members wear today. "We are deeply indebted and we highly respect the support we get from the City of Edina," said Mary Brindle, french horn player in the band, who has been a member of the band along with her husband, Ralph, since 1977. They provide a wonderful space for us to rehearse in at Centennial Lakes, and they help us with capital expenses, including uniforms and maybe some of the big instruments and music.
The First John Philip Sousa Memorial Band has gone through a number of evolutions over its 30+ year existence, and has only retained one of its original members, but it still plays the kind of turn-of-the-century music that sparked its beginning, Crosbie said. We like to specialize in some of the things that maybe arent played a lot any more, such as pieces by Karl King and Henry Fillmore. They are turn-of-the-century pieces that often have a funny story associated with them. But, we also play a lot of John Philip Sousa, and some John Williams as well. What we really do is we find music that we enjoy playing, and listen from an audience point of view to see if its enjoyable. We want it to be memorable for the audience.
Members of the 40-piece band now come from all over the Twin Cities, including Edina, Richfield, St. Louis Park, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Andover, Apple Valley, Vadnais Heights, and Bloomington. There is little turnover in the band and many of its members have been playing with the band since the 1970s, said Jeff Shlosberg, another member of the band who plays two reed instruments and percussion. In the Sousa Band, its very common that people have been in the band 10, 15, 20 years.