Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Band enjoys summer of fun

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jul 11, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Lauren Kraemer, left, and Rodger Gillaspie play saxophone in the Fairfield Municipal Band during its concert Tuesday night in the Ron Prill Bandstand in Central Park. Kraemer just finished her freshman year at Fairfield High School. Gillaspie is a charter member of the municipal band, which began in 1987.

Tuesday was a gorgeous night to take in an outdoor concert, and that’s what dozens of residents did in Fairfield’s Central Park.

The soothing melodies came courtesy of the Fairfield Municipal Band, performing one of its weekly summer concerts. The band is directed by Jim Edgeton, who is in his 25th year in the roll. As always, Edgeton conducted the band in a wide range of genres, from a John Philip Sousa march to a Tony Bennett tribute to selections from the Disney film “Moana.” The public will have one more chance to hear the municipal band Tuesday on its final concert of the year.

The municipal band began in 1987 after the Iowa National Guard’s 34th Army Band was no longer able to play concerts, something it had done since World War II. Some members who played under the municipal band’s first director, Ron Prill, are in it still today. Among them are Rodger Gillaspie and Greg Hanshaw.


Rodger Gillaspie

Gillaspie plays alto and tenor saxophone, but just alto in the municipal band. He loves to perform and loves the camaraderie he feels with fellow bandmates.

“Playing an instrument is a skill you can age somewhat gracefully in,” he said. “It’s hard to be a competitive athlete at 76, but I can still play in the band.”

Gillaspie said Edgeton does an excellent job of selecting pieces so the concerts are fun to perform. Gillaspie’s favorite genre of music is jazz, and particularly enjoyed the tribute to Tony Bennett the band performed that night.

“I’ve always liked most types of music,” he said. “I like the challenge of overtures.”

The band performs six concerts during the summer. That leaves a lot of down time during the rest of the year for a performer to become rusty. Not Gillaspie. He plays in several other bands such as the Tarnished Brass Band in Keosauqua, the Iowa Military Veterans Band, the Southeast Iowa Band, and the Fairfield Big Band.

“I’m not starting cold on our first concert of the summer,” he said.

Another perk of playing so much is that it keeps Gillaspie in shape. The concert always consists of more than 10 pieces, and that’s after a 2.5-hour rehearsal the night before.

One of Gillaspie’s early mentors was Fairfield High School band director Dillon Lowell. Gillaspie joined the 34th Army Band right after graduating high school in 1960, and for many years was tutored by Prill. Prill was band director and company commander of the 34th Army Band from 1972-1992. Prill continued to play in the band after he stepped down as director. The bandstand was named after him in July 2013, less than two months before he died. In 2017, a plaque dedicating the bandstand to Prill was unveiled.

“Prill was instrumental in keeping me challenged and keeping me busy,” Gillaspie said.


Greg Hanshaw

Hanshaw plays percussion in the band, although he’s a trumpet player by trade. Since the municipal band has enough trumpet players already, Hanshaw fills in where he’s needed.

“I’ve dabbled in percussion over the years, and once I started doing more and more of it, it didn’t feel like a steep learning curve,” he said.

Like Gillaspie, Hanshaw is a charter member of the municipal band and performed for years as a member of the 34th Army Band.

“I joined out of my love for music,” he said. “Music is a skill you can learn as a child and utilize for the rest of your life. That’s what I love about being in a band like this. You can mix high school kids with a bunch of old guys like me and have a lot of fun.”

Jazz is Hanshaw’s favorite genre, owing to having played it so much in big Army bands and in Fairfield.

“In the concert band setting, I really enjoy the more modern stuff like the Disney pieces, or the modern arrangements of movie scores,” he said. “I also like the old stuff. I loved doing the Tony Bennett medley.”

Hanshaw said he’s so into the music during the concert that he doesn’t feel fatigued, but he does feel it later.

“You realize, ‘Wow, that was a bit of a workout and I’m spent,’” he said. “But during the show, you don’t notice it.”

Hanshaw said he’s never gotten heat stroke playing outside, although he has seen fellow bandmates faint. He mentioned that bugs can be a problem late in the evening. There’s little the percussionists can do with both their hands busy in the middle of a tune.

“You just have to deal with it,” Hanshaw said.

Hanshaw’s early mentor was junior high band director Jim Hafner, followed by Prill as high school band director and director in the 34th Army Band.

“I’ve loved working with Jim Edgeton for many years, too,” he said. “Jim is so positive and complimentary. A negative word never comes out of his word when he’s in front of the band. You can see how much he enjoys it and loves bringing a group of people together to play music. It’s hard not to enjoy it yourself.”


Dave Magill

Dave Magill is in his third year in the municipal band, where he plays the euphonium. He played in school from seventh grade through his senior year of college.

“I wanted to be in the [junior high] band, and the clarinet and cornet players had already been taking lessons for four years, so the baritone was all that was left, and that’s what they needed,” he said.

Magill said he likes all genres of music, and doesn’t mind that the band plays selections from recent movies.

“It’s easier when you recognize the tune,” he said.

Magill is not in other bands, but he loves playing so much that he practices four times a week year-round.

“If you’re an old guy, it keeps your brain active,” he joked.

Magill was encouraged to join the municipal band after performing in a brass quintet that included Dorothy Rowe, Terry Cochrane and Francis Thicke, all of whom play in the municipal band.

When Magill was asked if he is ever bothered by the heat or mosquitoes, he replied, “When you read about people being stuck in a cave for 12 days, it makes everything else seem pretty minor.”

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