ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s state band rehearses in a basement cafeteria, stores its music in a hard-to-reach closet and can’t afford a marimba.
But it could get some official appreciation if a pair of state House bills quietly introduced Thursday become law. A group of DFL lawmakers wants to throw the band $50,000 over the next two years and guarantee free rehearsal space.READ MORE: Derek Chauvin Sentence: How Long Will He Spend In Prison?
“Having a state band is something that makes the state sort of special,” said Rep. Phyllis Kahn, the chief sponsor of the funding bill. The Minneapolis lawmaker also signed onto the bill mandating rehearsal space.
The band’s history stretches back to 1898. It was so successful in its early years that John Philip Sousa, composer of “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” lured members into his own group.
But limited state funding — about $5,000 a year for the past three years — and steep instrument transportation costs have recently kept the group confined to the metro area, said conductor Chuck Boody. Members, who each pay $50 in annual dues, rehearse in the basement of the Minnesota Department of Transportation building near the Capitol.
“Charitably, it’s not the best acoustic environment available,” Boody said.READ MORE: COVID In Minnesota: 13 Deaths, 1,611 Cases Reported; Hospitalizations Continue To Spike
Minnesota governors have praised the band through the years, but there’s no official recognition of it in state statutes, Boody said.
Sponsors of the bills say $50,000 is a pittance to maintain a state asset, especially compared with the state’s $40 billion two-year budget. Boody said a good chunk of that money would help buy new percussion instruments like a marimba, which is like a xylophone, and music arrangements. Contemporary band music has put more of an emphasis on percussion sections, he said.
The band would likely ask for less money in future years, he said.
The band could also use the money to increase its statewide touring. Members have traveled to Europe several times in the past 30 years to represent the state.
Only a handful of band members are state employees, said band president and percussionist Craig Allen. That number used to be higher, and the group would like to recruit more.MORE NEWS: Man, 19, Identified As Victim In Fatal North Minneapolis Shooting
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