4:52 p.m. — Andrew Van Cleave, 18, lifts a timpani and places it in the back corner of the empty band shell in Veterans Memorial Park. He will spend the next hour preparing the stage for the Winona Municipal Band concert tonight.
“I try to start from the back,” he says. “It gets kind of hard to maneuver the big stuff around.”
Van Cleave is playing trombone tonight. He joined the band three years ago.
“It’s something that goes way beyond anything you find in high school,” he says. “You never know what you’re going to find next.”
5:01 p.m. — Kris Krause wanders into the rows of empty benches with an oboe strapped to her back. Soon, a circle of band members join her. They’ve just come from filling out registration forms at the park municipal building.
“There’s a lot of great musicians on this stage,” says Krause. “Most of the people are here to play because they love to play.”
5:17 p.m. — A car pulls in front of the band shell. Richard Lindner steps out on to the lawn. Lindner has directed the band since 1973. He and Van Cleave unload music stands from the car.
“I don’t have time to talk now,” Lindner says. In 43 minutes he will begin taking the band through practice rounds before the show starts.
Band members will not get sheet music until rehearsal starts.
5:30 p.m. — Tim Gleason leans on the trunk of his car, blowing into his tuba.
Gleason, 39, moved to Winona 16 years ago to become a band director at Winona Senior High School.
“My father played in the municipal band when he was growing up,” Gleason says. “As I got older, I found it was a way for me to express myself.”
In a few minutes Gleason will take his place in the middle of the long arc in the back row.
“Life as a tuba player is never easy,” Gleason says, squinting through his sunglasses. “We spend more time in the sun than most of the people in the back row.”
5:40 p.m. — Holly Martin unfolds a gold and brown afghan and spreads it on a bench in the shade. She is the first audience member to arrive. Her daughter, Mercedes, will play the clarinet in the band.
“Probably tonight we’ll have a beautiful sunset,” Martin says.
5:43 – Mercedes walks over to the bench and greets her mom. She is the third generation of her family to play the clarinet, after her mother and grandmother.
Mercedes leaves for the stage, and Holly heads to the car. She still has to pick up other family members for the show. With their exit, the rows of benches is empty again.
5:45 p.m. — Half of the band is seated in the band shell. A few scatter themselves around it. A cacophony fills the air as tubas, clarinets, flutes and trombones run up and down scales.
5:57 p.m. — Lindner claps his hands, and the ruckus quickly stops. He asks if everyone filled out the registration forms.
Behind Lindner, a row of flags flies, waving in the direction of the lake. The sky is blue. The lake is calm. He starts up the band. Music erupts from the band shell. John and Jane Hartmann of Minneiska are the only people seated.
Things exist that way for a while.
6:58 p.m. — Long shadows and glinting light from the dying sun fall over Phil and Alyssa Klemp as they sit on a bench behind the band shell, reading the newspaper.
Their daughters Cady, 14, Rebekah, 12, and Emily, 9, are off playing.
“They’re just running off some steam before we head up,” Phil says.
The Klemps have been coming to the inaugural concert every year since they moved to Winona in 2000.
Music starts up and quits in the background, as Lindner slowly works out the kinks.
7:18 p.m. — Lindner gives the band a break so members can rest their jaws, lips and hands before the show. French horn player Nancy Flatten thinks rehearsal went well.
She’s been playing in the band for nearly 15 years and not much has changed, she said. Learning new music is tough, she says. The band practices for little more than an hour before the concert.
“It’s pretty hard core,” Flatten says. “We like it.”
7:51 — Musicians head for their instrument cases and rejoin the band on stage. They start into scales and wild cacophony retakes the air.
7:45 — Again, Lindner claps his hands to silence the band. A long, steady note rings out as he goes through each player to make sure they are in tune.
7:59 — Linder pauses, deftly raises his conductors wand, and a lone drum roll splits the air. It is the Star-Spangled Banner. The gathered crowd stands and turns toward the flags — hats removed and hands on breasts. The band’s summer season is officially started. So is Steamboat Days.