Le Mars Municipal Band 2020 summer season is cancelled

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Le Mars Municipal Band concert summer 2019.
(Sentinel photo by Beverly Van Buskirk)

LE MARS — There will be no music in Foster Park this summer as the Le Mars Municipal Band has decided to cancel the 2020 concert series because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are sad that our band will not be able to share music with the citizens of Le Mars this summer at Foster Park,” said Corbet Butler, president of the Le Mars Municipal Band. “One of the greater joys of summer is the community coming together on Wednesday nights to enjoy the musical talents of our municipal band. Music connects people of all ages and backgrounds, and our community will miss that special connection this summer.”

Butler said safety is the primary concern, not only for the band members but the audience as well.

The band board members: Butler, band president; Sue Ashenfelter, secretary; John Schneider, treasurer; Michelle Schneider, personnel manager; Jerry Bertrand, director; and Michael Prichard, had emails going back and forth. They also conducted three band board meetings via Zoom.

“While social distancing is manageable for our audience members in Foster Park, the gazebo does not allow for band members to maintain enough physical distance deemed safe by the Iowa Department of Public Health,” Butler said.

“We followed the COVID-19 situation, and, after much discussion, made the decision that we thought was the best and safest for our audience and for the band musicians and director. With so many activities and events being cancelled or postponed, this concert season cancellation was not unexpected. But this summer will seem strange without the concerts in the park. This has been a very strange year in the history of our country,” Ashenfelter said.

“There are many members of our band and audience that fall into the highest risk categories for COVID-19 transmission, and we want to do everything possible to protect those that are most vulnerable in our community. As more health studies show us the best practices to provide safe performances, we will be eager to begin preparing for our next concert season in Foster Park,” Butler said.

“Emotionally, it was a difficult decision, but we knew that to adhere to social distancing it would be impossible for us to perform, so it was the obvious choice. There are several of us in the high risk category,” John Schneider said.

For Ashenfelter, the 2020 season would have been her 40th consecutive summer in the band. She plays piccolo and flute. She also serves as band secretary, publicist, and refreshments organizer, a job she shares with Butler because some of the band’s corporate sponsors bring refreshments for the crowd.

“Band is so much fun. We practice hard, but we have fun, too. Jerry Bertrand, our director, selects a variety of music, and I enjoy that,” Ashenfelter said. “I will miss the rehearsals and my music friends. I will miss practicing band music. (Yes, I like to practice!) I will miss band section pictures taken prior to the first concert by Beverly Van Buskirk from the Le Mars Daily Sentinel. Not only am I her ‘scribe,’ recording names, but I also get to meet most of the members of the band during section pictures. Band section pictures has been a tradition for many years,” she said. “

I will miss the concerts in beautiful Foster Park. The setting is akin to something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. I will miss the crowd. A concert would be no fun without our audience.”

As for the summer, Ashenfelter said she’ll just keep practice her flute pieces. “I do enjoy having new music to practice; it wakes up my brain,” she said.

Schneider began sharing his talent in the band in 1972 when he turned 16 and had a driver’s license. He plays baritone sax.

“Next year would be my 50th season in the band if I had played every year. I missed a couple years while in college and a couple a few years later,” he said. “I often say it makes me feel young to play with mostly younger people. I enjoy the friendship with many in the band and the challenge of playing the music as I’m not a music professional or even a music major as many in the band are.”

Each year, the Le Mars Municipal Band relies on community support to help fund future concert seasons at Foster Park. Anyone interested in making a contribution to the Band this summer, may mail checks or cash to John Schneider at 12179 Pioneer Ave., Le Mars, Iowa, 51031.

“We are fortunate to work with the City of Le Mars and our outstanding community to continue providing quality musical experiences for our city, and we are thankful for all of the support through our 113 years of performances,” Schneider said.

“We look forward to seeing you at Foster Park in 2021,” Butler said.

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