Beyond summer

MARQUETTE – When the Marquette City Band performs concerts each summer, those concerts have a theme.

The band is expanding its musical season with a winter concert Feb. 9 and its director, Steve Grugin, has decided what this one is going to be called: “Another Step Forward.”

“Because we have taken several steps foward with the band and frankly haven’t taken any back,” Grugin said.

The band, which formed in 1887, has given summer concerts in various locations in the community continually since 1929. Grugin is researching whether the Feb. 9 event will be the first time the Marquette City Band has presented a concert at another time of year.

“We’ve been trying to find out if anyone remembers other concerts before this outside of the summer ones,” Grugin said.

The Feb. 9 concert – which is free to the public – will feature a variety of numbers including John Philip Sousa’s “The Freelance March”; Gioacchino Rossini’s “Scherzo for Band”; two short pieces by Percy Grainger; and a medley from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” that will feature band member Betsy Grugin with an alto sax solo.

“Betsy’s my wife. She was featured in the Marquette Symphony Orchestra concert recently,” Grugin said.

“Olympic Fanfare and Theme” by John Williams also will be part of the program, with guest conductor Matt Mitchell guiding the band through that number.

“We also have some music to warm people up,” Grugin said with a chuckle. “We are doing ‘From Tropic to Tropic March’ by Russell Alexander.”

The Feb. 9 concert will be followed by another May 1, said MCB President Ben Bohnsack.

“We’ve been talking for several years about doing more than we have been doing,” Bohnsack said. “That talk led to developing a master plan. That master plan included not only the addition of two more concerts than just the traditional summer season but also starting up small brass and woodwind ensembles.”

Bohnsack said the band has always been grateful for the funding it receives from the City of Marquette; the Louis G. Kaufman Endowment Fund; the Ray and Peggy Hirvonen Foundation; and its patrons and audience. The group is thrilled that recently some additional funding has been secured.

“In the fall, we submitted two new grant applications. From the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, we received $9,350 in new money, almost doubling our grant resources,” he said. “And we received $2,000 from the Michigan Community Foundation for a community band festival that’s still in the planning stages.”

New music, new equipment and a modest bump to the director’s stipend are other uses for this increase of funds.

“All of that together means we’re working real hard and we’re excited about what’s happening,” Bohnsack said.

The band is comprised of adults from the community, university students and high school students. With the added concerts, some of the younger members might not be able to take part because of school commitments.

“With the new concerts, we will rehearse four times before each performance,” Bohnsack said. “That gives us two new stretches of playing together, which really is the heart of what a community band is. We love to rehearse together.”

In the summer, traditionally the Marquette City Band has as many as 80 members, with these non-summer concerts drawing 50 or so musicians who are able to participate.

Grugin said the band will have its traditional auditions in May for those who want to join.

The MCB website can be found at Anyone wishing further information about the band or instrumentalists wanting to play can contact Grugin at 227-1040 or Bohnsack at 250-7019.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.