With the cost of everything going up, does the word free get your attention?
The Denver Municipal Band has been performing free concerts for the Denver-metro area since 1861.
“This year we are back to a full schedule, performing more than six concerts in a month. Last year we only offered about three each month due to COVID restrictions,” said Tami Matthews, volunteer marketing director for the DMB.
The DMB 2022 season kicked off in City Park on June 3 with an ice cream social. The performance schedule continues through mid-September.
For an organization more than 200 years old, changes are inevitable.
“For the past five years, we have made decisions to include more diversity,” Matthews said. “This is reflected in our band members, the volunteers, even the music we play and our venues.”
For example, the band performed at the Westminster Latino Festival in 2019, and in 2018, the DMB was broadcast in Ethiopia for the Taste of Ethiopia as they played live in Denver.
Band manager Dan Leavitt said, “at one concert we performed a waltz from Venezuela and there was a couple in the crowd who grew up singing that song. They were clearly emotionally moved by our piece.”
For some, a municipal band conjures thoughts of John Philip Sousa marches, small town main streets and the Andy Griffith show. That’s way off base. Attending a DMB concert, it’s possible to hear funk, jazz, Big Band standards, orchestral pieces, soul and yes, even marches. The music is selected by the artistic director, Dr. Joseph Martin and Leavitt.
“We are constantly evaluating what we play and where. We want to bring our music to the vast cultural spectrum that makes up the Denver area … we are very intentional about putting the community first. We learn from the community, and we hope the community can be enhanced by the music we share. What can be better than that for a community-supported arts organization?” said Leavitt.
The DMB is comprised of professional musicians, which are paid positions, even though the concerts are free. Many of the performers belong to other professional ensembles like the Colorado Symphony, the Queen City Jazz Band, the Central City Opera and more. This variety of backgrounds supports the many elements of the band. The DMB is made up of a 40-piece orchestra, a 20-piece jazz band, a brass quintet and smaller ensembles. Flexibility is the band’s hallmark.
When asked about the challenges he faces, Leavitt said, “funding. It’s always funding. We serve the community for free. So, we have no ticket sales revenue. For me, this makes the Denver Municipal Band a very special part of the entire Denver-area citizenry and not just for those who can afford a ticket.”
In addition to public concerts, the DMB, a nonprofit, serves the public through education and enrichment of children’s musical talent and enjoyment.
Looking to the future, Leavitt hopes for even more. One goal is for more performance opportunities.
The public enjoys nationally known musicians who regularly join the DMB. This year, you’ll listen to Shane Endsley, a trumpeter, drummer and composer who is an active leader and sideman with New York jazz ensembles. In the past, prominently known bassist Charles Burrell, the first African American to be a member of a major American symphony, played with the band.
These are rain-or-shine performances.
“The only time we cancel is when something like hail or lightening threatens the safety of our performers or the public. Other than that, we’ll even play in the rain,” said Matthews.
Matthews encourages public participation.
“People should attend these free concerts to enjoy our beautiful parks, gather with friends and get to know their community,” Matthews said. “Many entire families show up and we watch the kids dance and play to the music. It makes for a special summer event when people pack picnics and relax while enjoying professional musicians as the Colorado sun sets.”