Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jesse Murphy

Niwot Community Band to play at Rockies game


Courtesy Photo The Niwot Community Semi-Marching Free Grange Band plays at the Independence Day celebration in Niwot each year.

The Niwot Community Semi-Marching Free Grange Band has been given the honor of playing the National Anthem at the Colorado Rockies game on June 27, but their story neither starts nor ends there.

The band formed in 2005 to dedicate the new community bandstand at Whistle Stop Park on the Fourth of July.

“We had this project going then realized we didn’t have a band,” organizer Bruce Warren said. “The bandstand was a rough recreation of one that had existed in the early 1900’s when Niwot had a band, called the Niwot Military Band.”

They called the Niwot High School Music Director Heather Meier to see if there was interest in performing that day.

“We asked if she would conduct,” Warren said. “Then we recruited a few high school students, we put an ad in the paper and we came up with about 14 people and a pretty good distribution of instruments.”

They then recruited the help of Wally Moffett, who is involved in the Shriners Band in Denver.

“We played five songs that day and dedicated the bandstand,” Warren said. “We had such a good time that we decided to see if we could get the band together to play for Niwot Nostalgia Day which was held in September.”

In the following years, the band added more members, borrowed and later bought a flatbed trailer for parades and have expanded their repertoire.

“Ever since then we have kept the band together,” Warren said. “We now have over 100 pieces of music we play at various occasions.

Warren said that anywhere from 14 to 24 people show up at each performance, and about 30 people participate regularly in events.

Their usual schedule includes the First Friday Art Walk, Rock & Rails (they will be the opening act on June 30), the Fourth of July pancake breakfast and parade, the Halloween Parade (playing the traditional “I Want Candy”), and the annual holiday parade.

For some events, they play familiar John Philip Sousa marches and patriotic songs. For others, they play a mix of jazz and rock songs from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

But before the Rockies take the field against the Toronto Blue Jays at 6:40 p.m. on June 27, 34 members of the band (including eight students from NHS) will play our National Anthem.

Warren, who plays trombone, also recruits help from his daughter Katie Warren — who he calls “versatile” since she majored in music therapy and plays trumpet, baritone, alto sax and the clarinet.

He said that about half of the original members are still involved. Paul Schafer, Doug Miller, Bob Stadtherr, Rick Clark, Mike and Gayle Weiss, Joe Kunches, Fred Denny, Jenn Hronkin, Kirk Stewart, Sandy Burrell, Kim and Quinn Kalinski, Chris Doyle, Adam Kuyt, Erica Cooper, Brenda Luksch and Janet McDaniel are among the regulars.

“These are the real stalwarts that keep the band together,” Warren said. “All of those people have been with us for a long time, if not the whole time. They are an amazing group of people. You would never know that by just listening to the band.”

Lee Shaw is currently the director of the band, and has been involved from the beginning as well.

“For the first performance he served as our equipment manager,” Warren said. “The high school director did that show. Lee took over as the conductor after that.”

The name itself has an interesting story. Semi-marching comes from the fact that sometimes they can’t fit everyone on the trailer for parades. And there’s another local reference.

“There’s a part of the Boulder County comprehensive plan that says Niwot is a semi-rural community,” Warren said. “It’s a little bit of a play on that, we’re semi-marching because we’re semi-rural.”

They purchased their uniforms used online, mostly from high schools that get rid of old ones.

“They’re all different,” Warren said. “We look like Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band when we put on our uniforms.”

Marching in parades can bring some interesting experiences, but they’re looking forward to playing before the game since it will be better weather than the holiday parade.

“Last year it was so cold that slides and valves froze,” Warren said. “But we carried on anyway and played the full hour in what seemed like 15 degree weather.”

But people enjoy hearing them play, so the beat will go on regardless.

“It’s really well-received in the community,” Warren said. “Wherever there’s a captive audience — for example I heard that several people come down to the art walk because they hear the music.”

The experience gained for the younger members is also valuable.

“We get kids who will play with us for a year or two,” Warren said. “It’s always fun to see the young musicians play with the old musicians. We have some very talented people in the community band — people who have played professionally in various places. There’s a core group of the band and they’re really good with the kids.”

The Niwot Community Semi-Marching Free Grange Band is always open to new members, and even serves as NHS pep band during basketball games when the school band can’t be there.

“That’s a lot of fun,” Warren said. “I think the parents tend to know the songs we play more than the kids do. We play a lot from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. We take anybody who is willing to play. There is no audition required.

“There is strength in numbers. If you’re not comfortable we have enough people to cover parts. It’s not critical that you be an expert musician. People just have a lot of fun playing.”

More information on the band can be found at http://www.niwotcommunityband.org, and tickets to the game can be purchased at http://www.rockies.mlb.com/tickets.

*Side note: No musicians are harmed in the making of their music.


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