Roseville Big Band Traditions

Dr. Glen E. Newton, Roseville Big Band Director and Historian
June 30, 2007; with selective updates January 3, 2016

The Roseville Big Band builds upon a wealth of traditions, some stretching back to its inception in 1965. The band has evolved under the leadership of five directors over the course of its history, developing new traditions and sometimes discarding old ones. The traditions described here have lasted through the years and help define the Roseville Big Band.

TWENTIETH CENTURY TRADITIONS
  FORMATION
    Sponsorship by Roseville Parks and Recreation Department
    Concerts in Roseville’s Central Park
  STABILIZATION
    Commemorative Air Force Hangar Dances
    Vocal Soloists
    Community Television Broadcasts of Performances
    Nursing Home Concerts
    Charitable Fundraisers
    Support for Civic Events
  TRANSITION
    Sit-in Nights
    Variety of Music
  EXPANSION
    Guest Soloists
    Vocal Ensembles
    Encouraging New Compositions
    Encouraging New Arrangements
    Joint Rehearsals and Concerts
    Carleton College Mid-Winter Dance
    Swing Dance Exhibition Dancers
    Uncommon Instruments
    Variety of Audiences
TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY TRADITIONS
    Web Site
    Children’s Hospital Association Annual Balls
    Como Park Concerts
CONCLUSION  

Twentieth Century Traditions

Each of the directors who led the Roseville Big Band began a set of traditions that is still ongoing. The traditions are grouped below based on those directors.

Formation

When Mark Lammers was the Kellogg High School band director, he proposed a community band to Frank Rog, the head of the Roseville, Minnesota, Parks and Recreation Department, who enthusiastically supported the idea of an adult recreation band and a summer concert series. This was the genesis in 1964 of the Roseville Municipal Band, later named the Roseville Community Band, the parent organization of the Roseville Big Band. Mark Lammers directed the band from 1964 to 1970.

Sponsorship by Roseville Parks and Recreation Department.

The Roseville Big Band’s most fundamental tradition is its sponsorship by the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Roseville. The Parks and Recreation Department first sponsored an adult concert band in 1964. In 1965, director Mark Lammers organized several smaller ensembles within the Roseville Municipal Band, including a stage band that later changed its name to the Roseville Jazz Ensemble, and finally to the Roseville Big Band. This stage band performed on Roseville Municipal Band concerts along with other ensembles.

Concerts in Roseville’s Central Park.

One of the oldest traditions of both bands is playing concerts in Roseville’s Central Park. At first, there was no permanent band shell. The city rented the Ramsey County portable band wagon for the concerts and placed it in an open area among the trees. The city's 1961 plan for Central Park identified a “band shelter” near County Road C, between Lexington and Victoria. However, it took the Roseville tornado, on June 14, 1981, which uprooted all the trees on the southwest shore of Lake Bennett, to clear the way-quite literally-for the city to build the permanent band shell. The band shell now hosts concerts by the Community Band, Big Band, and numerous other organizations from around the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Stabilization

For its first eleven years, the stage band was part of the Community Band, and the amount it rehearsed and performed depended on the interests and available time of the Community Band director. After the stage band had been dormant for a while, Bob Lancette became the new director of the Community Band. He re-formed the stage band in 1976, named it the Roseville Jazz Ensemble (later changing its name to the Roseville Big Band), and began regular rehearsals and performances. He was the first director to schedule Big Band performances independent of the Community Band.

Commemorative Air Force Hangar Dances.

Bob Lancette, who directed the Roseville Big Band from 1976 through 1987, supported the efforts of the Commemorative Air Force (known originally as the “Confederate Air Force”), a group that restores World War II era planes. He encouraged them to hold an annual fundraising dance in their hangar at Fleming Field in South St. Paul, and he led the Roseville Big Band in its first years of performing for these dances, beginning in 1982. Initially they were held once a year, near Memorial Day. (Click here for the poster for the second annual Fleming Field Days.) In the mid-1980’s the group added a second dance in September, and the Roseville Big Band includes those two dances on its performance schedule each year.

Vocal Soloists.

Bob Lancette recognized that although instrumental music is an important part of the big band tradition, songs that have well-known lyrics connect with the audience better if there is a vocalist. On Independence Day 1984, Kathy Olsen, the sister of the Roseville Community Band’s principal clarinetist Bob Olsen, became the band’s first vocalist, singing “South of the Border” (“ai-yi-yi-yi”) with the Roseville Big Band. The band’s first male vocalist was Glen Newton, who stepped forward from the trumpet section to sing “Minnie the Moocher” at several Commemorative Air Force dances. The vocal soloist tradition gained momentum in 1990, when Mary Lou (Christianson) Peterman became the band’s first long-term vocalist. It started when the band was playing for the spring hangar dance and one of the colonels in the Confederate Air Force approached director Glen Newton to inquire, “My niece has sung professionally in Hawaii; could she sing something with the band?” Mary Lou sang “When the Saints Go Marching In” with us and became a regular performer on our concerts.

We also met tenor Kirk Lindberg (who built his own airplane and keeps it in a hangar at Fleming Field) through the Confederate Air Force dances. More than three dozen other vocalists-from new high school grads to seasoned performers-have performed as guest artists with the band.

Community Television Broadcasts of Performances.

Concerts and dances entertain thousands of people in the live audience, as we always do on July 4th in Central Park and as we have often done at the hangar dances. These musical events can entertain even more people when they are televised.

Since 1984, community television volunteers in Roseville have videotaped Roseville Big Band concerts for replay on the public access channels of cable television. Today, these concerts are carried on channel 15 in ten cities in the northern suburbs of St. Paul:

Arden Hills Falcon Heights
Lauderdale Little Canada
Mounds View New Brighton
North Oaks Roseville
St. Anthony Shoreview ( In 2014 Shoreview dropped out of the consortium.)

Furthermore, because of the “Universal Cable” agreement between the North Suburban Cable Commission and the cable provider, even households that do not subscribe to commercial cable stations can receive these broadcasts free. All Roseville Big Band concerts in Central Park are videotaped for multiple later replays on cable television. In addition, with the installation of a live television feed from Central Park in 1992, live broadcasts from Central Park have let shut-in audiences see the Roseville Big Band concerts as they are happening. Starting in 2015, some Roseville Big Band concerts have been streamed live on the Internet from the CTV15 broadcast facilities.

Volunteer community access producer John Rusterholz has been producing videos of Roseville Big Band performances since 1992 and works closely with band director Glen Newton to coordinate the song identification, camera shots, and soloist identification with the music. Other live television broadcasts of Roseville Big Band performances have included dances at Roseville Area High School and concerts at Concordia Academy. Community television crew have also videorecorded and broadcast the band’s performances at various other locations for broadcast in the Twin Cities:

St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Roseville Edina’s Edinborough Park
Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights Blaine’s Town Square Park
The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul Como Park in St. Paul
Eagan Central Park  
Salo Park in St. Anthony St. Anthony Community Center

Nursing Home Concerts.

Through concerts at nursing homes, we bring music to those who would have a difficult time getting out to concerts and who are of the age that they would especially appreciate this musical style. Nursing homes we have played for include the following:

Lyngblomsten Nursing Home Rosewood Estates
Eagle Crest Senior Living Community Woodbury Care Center
Rosepoint Senior Living  
Inver Grove Good Samaritan Nursing Home Wilder Residence
Little Sisters of the Poor, Holy Family Residence, in St. Paul Augustana Chapel View
Sholom Home East in St. Paul Beacon Hill Retirement Community in Minnetonka

The last two in this list have become traditions in themselves. The parents of Bob Nielsen, the band’s 4th trumpet player, live in Beacon Hill Retirement Community, and since 2004 we have played a concert there for an afternoon ice cream social each June. We also have played an annual concert at Sholom Home East since 2005. Part of the enjoyment in playing nursing home concerts comes from talking with audience members before and after the performances. We even found several former big band era musicians among the residents, including a resident of Sholom Home East who was the organ accompanist for the famous Andrews Sisters on tour.

Charitable Fundraisers.

The Roseville Big Band has furnished the music for numerous charitable fundraising dinners and dances. These fundraisers include benefits for the following organizations:

Roseville Schools music programs Roseville Area Arts Council
Ronald McDonald House Lyngblomsten Foundation
Minnesota FoodShare St. Paul Children’s Hospital Association
Courage Center The Commemorative Air Force Tuskegee Project
Inver Grove Heights schools music program The Lupus Foundation

Support for Civic Events.

In addition to playing three concerts in Central Park each summer, the band continues to provide entertainment for special occasions in Roseville, including these events:

Opening of the John Rose Oval, December 19, 1993 Opening of the Twin Lakes Medical Center, October 30, 1994
City of Roseville open house, October 9, 1999 Central Park Foundation 40th Anniversary Celebration, July 2, 2004
Tribute to Frank Rog, June 7, 2009 Roseville Community Showcase, June 27, 2010
Family Night Out, August 6, 2012 Flying Colors Community Festival, August 9, 2012

Transition

After leading the Roseville Big Band for 11 years, Bob Lancette moved to Georgia, and the Parks and Recreation department conducted a search for a new director. Sam Marks, a band director in the St. Paul school system, led both the Community Band and the Roseville Big Band during the interim. The selection committee asked Sam to continue directing the Community Band and chose Dr. Paul Pizner, a member of the music faculty at Hamline University, to direct the Roseville Big Band. Both directors brought new, challenging music for the Big Band to play, borrowed from the libraries of St. Paul Johnson High School and Hamline University. This transition period lasted from mid-1987 through mid-1989.

Sit-in Nights.

In 1988, director Paul Pizner instituted the sit-in night tradition. To give community members a chance to see what it's like to play in the band, the Roseville Big Band holds sit-in nights twice a year. A sit-in night is a regular rehearsal, 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., with the exception that additional musicians join the band for the rehearsal. On sit-in night, we play a variety of music, to give our sit-in guests a chance to experience several big band styles. Typically 10-15 additional musicians sit in each time, although we’ve had as many as 23 extras at the rehearsal.

Variety of Music.

A typical Roseville Big Band concert includes 15-18 songs, and a typical dance includes 40-50 songs, but over the past several years, we have performed 400 different songs. Following the precedent set by former directors, when the band’s current director, Dr. Glen Newton, chooses the songs for summer concerts in Central Park, he makes it a point to eliminate duplication from one concert to the next and minimize duplication from one year to the next. A few selections, such as the Roseville Big Band opening theme song and the exhibition dance numbers, may repeat from the prior year’s songs, but the rest are fresh selections, thus bringing our dedicated audience members new tunes and helping to maintain the interest of our volunteer musicians.

Expansion

In the fall of 1989, Paul Pizner took a leave of absence from directing the band, asking one of the trumpet players, Dr. Glen Newton, to fill in for him. Paul never returned from that leave of absence, eventually retiring to Arizona, and Glen has directed the Roseville Big Band ever since. Under his leadership, the band has expanded in a number of ways-serving additional audiences, finding more ways of entertaining, incorporating vocal ensembles and more. On occasion the band itself has expanded, such as when French horn and tuba players augmented the ensemble to perform “Malaguena” or when additional musicians helped the band perform Mike Bratlie’s seven-trombone arrangement of “I’ll Remember April.”

Guest Soloists.

In 1991, Glen Newton began the tradition of incorporating guest soloists into the band’s summer concerts in the park. Focusing on recent graduates from Roseville Area High School (RAHS), the intent was to reinforce the message, “There are musically fulfilling opportunities after high school, even if you aren’t a full-time professional musician.” The first guest soloists were 1991 RAHS graduates—Mike Lushine on trombone playing “Tall Cotton” and vocalist Rob Kleinendorst singing “It Had to Be You” and leading the RAHS Doo-Wop group, who performed several a capella selections on the program. Between 1991 and 2006, 37 recent RAHS graduates have been featured with the Roseville Big Band, some on more than one performance.

The tradition continued in the summer of 2006, with three 2006 high school graduates featured-trombonist Greg Albing (RAHS), alto saxophonist Andy Galkiewicz (RAHS), and vocalist Dani Maresh (Champlin Park High School). Other guest soloists have included RAHS music faculty members, Roseville Community Band director Dan Kuch, and other talented adult vocalists and instrumentalists from the Twin Cities. With a similar goal of demonstrating the joy of adult amateur big band playing to students, we also played for three middle school jazz festivals in the Anoka school district. “Musically fulfilling opportunities after Roseville high school” are exemplified by two of the full-time members of the Roseville Big Band. Nick Johnson, guitarist, is a 1999 RAHS graduate, and Rich Eyman, trombonist, graduated from Ramsey High School before Ramsey and Kellogg combined to form RAHS.

Vocal Ensembles.

Vocal soloists often perform with big bands, but vocal duets and larger ensembles are much less common. The Roseville Big Band’s vocal ensembles are one of its distinguishing characteristics. Shortly after Mary Lou Peterman joined the Roseville Big Band as a solo vocalist, director Glen Newton began harmonizing with her. After Kirk Lindberg joined the band as a tenor soloist, he learned Glen’s harmony to “Moon River.” Glen then created a third part for himself and the band had a vocal trio. An early vocal quartet consisted of Mary Lou, Glen, alto Julie Linders, and guest baritone sax soloist and tenor vocalist Tom Reitan, singing “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” in a 1992 concert at Centennial Lakes park. On another occasion, lead trombonist Carol Jensen joined Mary Lou, Glen, and Kirk to harmonize on “Sentimental Journey” at a Confederate Air Force dance. In 1994, Diane Lindberg joined Mary Lou, Glen, and husband Kirk for four-part vocals as The Rosetones, and the band’s repertoire of vocal quartets began to grow. When Mary Lou left in 1996, Karen Dunn joined the band, both as a solo vocalist and lead singer of the Rosetones vocal quartet. The Rosetones performed regularly with the band until 2004 and still sing with the band several times each year. Karen continues as our featured vocal soloist, and she and Glen sing duets at nearly every performance.

Encouraging New Compositions.

A band’s song list is one of the main things that distinguishes it from other bands. The Roseville Big Band encourages local composers, and as a result, our repertoire includes songs not in any other band’s repertoire. Keith Miner has contributed three songs, two of which (arranged by Glen Newton) are on our Concert in the Park (+8) CD. Julie Stenberg contributed three of her compositions to us. Mike Bratlie contributed two. The most recent original compositions added to the Roseville Big Band repertoire have come from Len Yaeger, who has written three songs for the band in 2006 and 2007. Four Glen Newton compositions are also in the band’s repertoire, including our opening theme song, “Dance to the Big Band Swing.” Both the Roseville Community Band and the Roseville Big Band have performed another of Glen’s compositions, “Barely Bossa Nova.” The Big Band’s 1994 performance of this song featured 1994 RAHS graduate Kris Rusterholz as a guest soloist on piccolo. The band premiered Glen’s composition, “It’s Too Late (for us to Start Again),” at the July 29, 2003, concert in Central Park. His most recent composition for the band is “Brown Wore Black,” dedicated to the volunteers of CTV15 who videotape and broadcast our concerts on television.

Encouraging New Arrangements.

We also encourage new arrangements, and we’ve given the premiere performance of a number of new arrangements, including seven by lead trombonist Mike Bratlie. The most recent of Mike’s arrangements for the band are an Armed Forces service song medley for the band to play at Commemorative Air Force hangar dances and “G. I. Jive,” a vocal quartet for the Rosetones to sing with the band. Lead alto sax player Kay Foster contributed an arrangement of “Happy Birthday,” probably the best-known of the songs for which we have a unique arrangement. The band first performed Roseville resident Bill Johnson’s arrangement of Scott Joplin’s classic “Peacherine Rag” on February 4, 2006. Robin Raygor, Julie Stenberg, alto saxophonist / flutist Bill Frank, and others have also written arrangements for the band. Glen Newton has created a dozen full jazz band arrangements for the Roseville Big Band, including “Sleepy Time Gal” and “Rock Around the Clock,” which are on the Concert in the Park (+8) CD. His arrangements for the band also include “Roseville Rock” and “Central Park Rock,” songs that Roseville composers Jack and Linda Brewer wrote to celebrate Roseville history. In addition to the full jazz band arrangements, Glen has written 31 vocal ensemble arrangements that correspond to instrumental backgrounds in the band’s repertoire.

Joint Rehearsals and Concerts.

The Roseville Big Band and the River City Jazz Orchestra (formerly the Inver Hills Jazz Band) have held annual joint rehearsals since 1993. Originally, a few band members were apprehensive because they thought of it as a competition, but they learned it was fun to get to know some other adult big band musicians and hear their repertoire, and nobody cared who played better. The two bands have also performed joint concerts:

A concert at Monroe School in 2000
A “battle of the bands,” billed as “Stompin’ at the Simley,” at Simley High School in 2003
A March 20, 2007, concert at the Gallagher-Hansen Post 295 VFW Hall in South St. Paul

The River City Jazz Orchestra is a convenient group to pair up with, because our rehearsals are on the same night of the week, Tuesday. In 2007, we tried a joint rehearsal with South Side Big Band on a Monday, and most band members were able to attend. That, too, was an enjoyable collaboration. Our joint performances with other jazz bands include the January 28, 2003, concert with the Nova Big Band at O’Gara’s in St. Paul, as well as the middle school jazz festivals in Anoka.

Carleton College Mid-Winter Dance.

The Roseville Big Band has played for the Carleton College Mid-Winter Dances since 1994. The band plays in the Great Hall. Downstairs, a combo plays swing music for dancing, and farther down the hall a disk jockey, salsa band, or pop rock group gives students and faculty yet another dancing option. This event is our road trip of the year, and because it is in early February, when road conditions can be dangerous, we charter a bus to Northfield for the safety of the musicians. This gives us a glimpse of what life on the road might have been like for the great swing bands of the past.

Swing Dance Exhibition Dancers.

In 1995 we added exhibition dancers to our summer performances, to make our concerts a treat for the eyes as well as the ears. These concerts that feature outstanding swing dancers on selected songs demonstrate the dancers’ enthusiasm and skill and are especially welcomed by those audience members who are unable to get to our dances. Over the years we have featured two groups organized and choreographed by Cindy Gardner of TC Swing-first the Rhythm & Swing Dancers and now the TC Swing Cats. These groups also perform at the Commemorative Air Force dances. In addition, from 2003 through 2005, Larry and Betty Thomas, creative freestyle dancers, performed with us at concerts in the park.

Uncommon Instruments.

For dances, we use only the standard big band instrumentation. There, the rarest instruments you'll see are the flugelhorns, played by all of our trumpet players, and soprano sax, played by several of our saxophonists.

During concerts, we try to expand our audiences' concepts of big band instrumentation by incorporating instruments not often featured on solos in modern big bands. Of course, "unusual" is in the mind of the beholder, but here are some solo instruments featured with the band:

Harmonica Bass clarinet BB-flat contrabass clarinet Bass saxophone
Oboe Piccolo E-flat flute Bagpipes
Piccolo trumpet Cornet Alto horn Tenor horn
Soprano trombone Alto trombone Euphonium Tuba
Slide whistle Berimbau Cuica Mandolin
Banjo      

Variety of Audiences.

Paradoxically, one of our traditions is to include new performance venues in each year’s schedule, in addition to the traditional ones, to acquaint new audiences with our music. For example, we recently performed for the first time for these events:

Annual Hasbro GI Joe Collector's Association Event (June 2005)
Children’s Surgery International Dance: Passport to Smiles (April 2006)
Concert at Town Square Park in Blaine – their first year of concerts in the park (August 2006)
Fall Festival at St. Mary of the Lake in White Bear Lake (September 2006)

This fall we will perform for two more new audiences:

Salo Park Amphitheater in St. Anthony (August 2007)
Annual gathering of the 93rd Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force (September 2007)

Twenty-first Century Traditions

Web Site.

Glen Newton launched at Roseville Big Band web site at www.rosevillebigband.org in January 2000. Over 65,000 Internet users have visited the site since then. It now gets about 260 visitors per day from throughout the world.

Children’s Hospital Association Annual Balls.

The Roseville Big Band has played for the St. Paul Children’s Hospital Association annual balls since 2002. This is one of the newest parts of our long-standing tradition of playing for charitable fundraisers, described above.

Como Park Concerts.

The Roseville Big Band performed at the Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, on the west shore of Como Lake in St. Paul, occasionally in the 20th Century. Since 2004, we have played an annual concert there in May, one of the first on the park’s summer concert schedule.

Conclusion

Each of these traditions helps define the Roseville Big Band in a way that transcends a statement of purpose or a single rehearsal or performance. Taken together, these traditions show that today’s Roseville Big Band puts an emphasis on entertainment and public service.
The band’s traditions of including vocalists, exhibition dancers, uncommon instruments, and guest soloists in the band’s performances demonstrate our emphasis on entertainment. Our traditions of featuring a wide variety of music, including new compositions and arrangements enhance this entertainment focus.

Our charitable fundraisers, nursing home concerts, performances for civic events, provision for sit-in nights, and performances at a variety of public venues demonstrate the band’s emphasis on public service. Another public service contribution is the close collaboration with CTV15, whose volunteers bring the Roseville Big Band concerts, both live and in replay, to thousands of viewers who would not otherwise be able to see and hear the band.

This page was last updated
Sunday, June 12, 2016.


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