The members of the St. Olaf Band are not just fellow musicians but also teammates and friends. In that spirit we meet together for a half-hour before each concert for a kind of pep talk we call 'devos' or devotions given by a senior. One of the great privileges of being a senior in this ensemble is being able to share with the whole band what a significance the music and people have been for us. Some read favorite literary selections; some develop elaborate analogies for the band; some say thank you; some just cry and tell stories. In any case, the stories and the experience of the seniors opening themselves up allows the entire band to bond more tightly. The whole experience culminates in many of hugs before we fill the stage to present our music.
'Non-Music' Band Bonding
Outside of the concert setting and the devotions, the band members become friends as well. As such the band has many other planned activities each year. Early in the fall we have a yearly barbecue-picnic near campus to help the returning 'Bandies' meet the newest members and vice-versa. It is matched by an end-of-the-year barbecue at Dr. Mahr's home to celebrate the year and all of our new (and old) friendships. The band also holds an annual fall hayride with s'mores cooked over a bonfire. Many new friendships are forged and old ones continue to grow and evolve. At the end of November many Bandies gather at Dr. Mahr's house to bake and frost cookies with the Mahr family. Many of these cookies are saved and set aside for the Christmas party later in December at Dr. Mahr's home. At this Christmas party, most of the members of the band squeeze into Dr. Mahr's living room to view slides of baby pictures of the members - a good end to the first half of the year together as a band.
For about 10 days beginning at the end of January and stretching into February, we depart on our yearly national tour - a true 'growth' experience for all members of the Band. In the spring, early morning softball games begin for those that can muster the strength to wake themselves at 6:30 a.m. The spring softball season is a series of games between the Band, Choir, Orchestra, Norseman Band, Philharmonia, Chapel Choir and Cantorei. The series of games culminate in the Broken Bat softball game, between the Band and the Orchestra. This has been a tradition of the Band and Orchestra for many years, and is always a fun and exciting way to strengthen friendships, meet new people and help you to wake up first thing in the morning. Throughout the year, other small gatherings and events are put together by members for each other to enjoy, as well as the end of the year picnics, both the Band picnic and the three organization picnic involving the Band, Choir and Orchestra.
Touring with the St. Olaf Band
No other period in the life of a music organization is as intense as the days spent on the road, giving concerts across the country and around the world. The band's annual winter tour heightens the musical and social ties among the band members and gives us a chance to share our music with a variety of people. We play in many kinds of locations on tour -- school auditoriums, community concert halls, gymnasiums -- but always for appreciative audiences. The warmest welcomes often come from the small towns we play in, where many may have never heard a college-level concert band before. The larger cities provide the chance for our own cultural experiences, both before and after the concert, as we see the history of the region we're visiting.
is also the time in which the band members become most familiar
with each other. Fellow musicians who may have been nameless for
the first part of the year suddenly become our bus companions or
fellow work crewmates for ten days. Shared activities carry on the
tradition of having fun together: nightly skits by new members,
no-talent night (where we show how ungifted we are in non-musical
areas -- just kidding), visits to monuments of history, and even
the activities of setting up for each new concert in pre-designated
Still, the music is what creates the opportunity for touring. After a month of eight hours of rehearsal a week, we take our music and simply perform it night after night, always improving, always discovering new aspects to the pieces, always making it more a part of ourselves. We experience how music can change the performer, and often the listener, again and again. By the time we arrive back on the St. Olaf campus for the home concert, we are ready to give the music a performance that is distinctly our own, because it is familiar enough for us to give both an individual and a collective interpretation.
Tour is quite the memorable time in so many ways. Joined with the experiences of the rest of the year, it leaves a lifelong mark on each member of the ensemble.