A century-long tradition is back once again in Wis. Rapids. The city band kicks off its summer concert series Tuesday night at Robinson Park.
The 50 member band, made up entirely of volunteers, performs around 10 times during the summer on Tuesdays at 7:15 p.m.
"We pick out our music primarily for our audience," said Bob Kaiser, the band's conductor. "We like to select things that our audience is going to enjoy. Things they can tap their toe to. That includes marches, an overture of some kind, we do broadway show tunes. Light, popular music."
Those both in the stands and behind them say they look forward to the music every year.
"This is one of my favorite music things that I do throughout the year," flautist Priscilla Kite said. "My parents who are music lovers as well have come 20 miles to come to this concert almost every week for those 20 years."
While each musician taps their toe to a slightly different rhythm--some are young, some are married, some are doctors or lawyers-- the harmony they create can last a lifetime.
"I wanted to meet a flutist because you look at the group and there's a whole big group of beautiful girls playing flute in the front," flautist Fred Kronenberg joked. "And I thought, boy, if I want to play in a band, that's where I want to be with all of the girls. And it worked and that's how I met my wife."
Fred and his wife Barb have been in the Wis. Rapids city band for more than 20 years. But they didn't know if they always wanted to pursue music.
"A number of years ago I was thinking about quitting the band," Fred said. "But I was playing at a concert and I noticed all of the people who come on a weekly basis and it's live music and people of all ages. And I says, if everybody had the idea they were going to quit and not contribute to anything, we wouldn't have a lot of good things in this world. So I decided to stay with the city band and play because the people really enjoy it."
That same sentiment is what has kept the beat going since the 1870s when it first began. "And has gone by many different names all those years," Kaiser said. About 1915, it kind of formally got started up as the Wis. Rapids City Band and under a couple of very fine directors over the years, got sponsored by the city of Wis. Rapids."
Now, fundraisers, generous donors, sponsor concerts and advertisements help fund the instruments, the music and the rehearsal time, which is hard to come by.
"We'll rehearse a concert on Monday night, a full one hour program and we'll perform it on Tuesday night," Kaiser said. "The next week we'll come back, we'll have a two hour rehearsal on Monday night and concert on Tuesday night."
It's a demanding two days each week, but the reward is worth it.
"I've been a musician ever since 4th grade," Kaiser said. "I love making music, I love making music with other musicians who also enjoy it. Music is fun. It should be fun, it should be fun to make. And I think we all try to do that. And in all of that experience, I've found if you're enjoying yourself making music as a soloist or as a small group or as a full concert band like this, the audience is going to enjoy it as well."
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