The community that plays together, stays together. At least, that may be the case when the playing in questions refers to music, an integral part of the culture and society of American towns in the early 1900s.
McPherson’s deep and varied musical history will be explored in a program titled “Music in McPherson” at 6:30 p.m. June 19 at the McPherson Public Library, 214 W. Marlin St.
Kyle Hopkins, associate professor of music and director of bands at McPherson College, and Jennie Hall, Head of Adult Services for the library, will lead the discussion.
“The history of the band movement in America is really a phenomenal thing,” Hopkins said. “...Bands in America had a real functional aspect.”
Community bands sprung up after Civil War veterans returned home, bringing the skills that had served a functional purpose on the battlefield back to their towns for entertainment.
“Every community in the early 1900s had a community band,” Hopkins said.
Early band traditions featured an intergenerational aspect that is rarely found in modern community bands.
“Whole families played,” Hopkins said. “...They would give concerts.”
The playing of instruments was considered such a priority in the early part of the 20th century that music instruction began to be taught in the classrooms of public schools around the country. The same principle held true in Kansas.
“It’s really remarkable how the trend in McPherson followed the national trend,” Hopkins said.
As radio and then television became more prevalent over the decades, community bands faded out. Hopkins said that is a trend he would like to see reversed, particularly as playing an instrument is a skill which people can keep up as they grow older and it requires less physicality than playing sports.
Hopkins noted while he appreciates revisiting memories of playing high school football while his father coached, he values the fact that they are still making memories while playing instruments together both at home and abroad.
During “Music in McPherson,” many pictures and newspaper articles relating to the musicians of McPherson’s early years through the 1970s will be highlighted by Hall.
“She’s done an amazing amount of research,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins will share stories of his interactions with former Hutchinson Community College Jazz Director Bryce Luty.
“Bryce (Luty) was always just a huge part of my life,” Hopkins said.
Also included in the program will be information about the legendary band director August San Romani and his municipal and high school bands, as well the Al Jennings Orchestra, King Midas and other ensembles that have made significant contributions to McPherson’s musical landscape.
“Almost from its start, music has been an integral part of our town,” Hopkins said. “We want to feature some of McPherson’s unique music traditions and highlight the rich contribution that musicians have made to our community.”
For additional information about “Music in McPherson,” call the library at 620-245-2570 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.