NEW ULM - The New Ulm Municipal Band, a group over 65 years in the making, shares beautiful music with this community on a weekly basis. Under the direction of Don Jirak, the band has become a city-wide staple and important artistic collaboration.
Don Jirak is in his 16th year of directing the band. After 21 years as a member, he took over as director in 1999. The band is comprised of about 55 members who play approximately 12 concerts in a typical season.
Every year, the band begins a once-weekly rehearsal schedule in March to prepare for its first concert on Memorial Day. The band plays frequently at German Park, but Jirak indicated that its musicians enjoy performing anywhere they can present themselves around town.
The New Ulm Municipal Band frequently participates in parades, playing their music from a flatbed trailer.
The municipal band is, in one word, diverse. This band represents a place where teachers, lawyers, students and farmers can come together. Mothers and children, husbands and wives are able to create together. Members as young as 14 and as old as 87 are united by a love of music.
This admiration also connects members of the band to members of other nations.
The band took a trip to Germany in 2000 and had the opportunity to play concerts all around the nation. There, members stayed with host families and learned to communicate despite a language barrier.
"We couldn't speak a word to each other, but we could sit down and play the same music," said Jirak.
According to Jirak, the music performed is always varied. Audience members can expect to hear traditional American marches performed right alongside Broadway showtunes. Jirak even made contact with a publisher in Ulm, Germany, who sent the band ethnic, German-style selections like polkas and waltzes.
Band members have well over 100 songs in their folders, and they enjoy giving the audience a vast variety of music. Because of this wide selection of music, every concert is different. "We very seldom repeat songs," said Jirak.
Jirak is appreciative of the community support the band receives.
"Not every community of our size fronts a community band like ours," he said. "I think we can feel real fortunate."
Band and community members often converse after rehearsals and concerts, Jirak said. The band provides an avenue of participation that can lead to friendship and connection.
The New Ulm Municipal Band will be performing at 11 a.m. on Sunday in the main tent of the Bavarian Blast and at 2 p.m. in the Blast's parade
Concerts will be performed every Wednesday through July at 7 p.m. in German Park.