On any Sunday evening in the summer, you’re likely to find Louis and Dorothy Blackburn planted in their red Iowa State lawn chairs in the green space at one of our community’s many parks. The pair of Norway residents are hard to miss – and they’ve been keeping this tradition since they first started attending Cedar Rapids Municipal Band concerts in the early 1970s.
So, when the band began raising funds for a new band shell – the protective canopy that amplifies the band’s sound and allows concerts to be mobile – the Blackburns had no hesitation supporting the fund, held at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.
“We got to laughing one night,” explains Dorothy. “We thought we ought to pay a certain amount of money based on how many concerts we’ve gone to and we tried to figure that out. That became a little silly but giving is a way to pay it back.”
The Blackburns’ commitment to the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band goes a bit deeper than simply enjoying an evening out. The two have fostered, perhaps inadvertently, numerous musicians.
Their daughter Doreen in particular, a professional French Horn player, went on to become a band instructor. She currently teaches at Taft Middle School and is married to a professional trombonist, Doug Anderson. Both play in the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band.
The Andersons identify the casual and fun outdoor concerts as a contributing factor to their children’s early love of instrumental music as well.
“The concerts are a really good way for people to expose their kids to professional music without a dark concert hall,” explains Doreen.
All three of the Andersons’ children have been involved in music, with their two boys playing in the Municipal Band. Their youngest son, Wes, currently plays tuba as a permanent member, and will begin teaching band music to students in Jefferson, Iowa this fall.
He remembers the band concerts as an idyllic family tradition, and today is proud to play with the Municipal Band. “I tried out for the Municipal Band like one hundred times before I finally got in,” he recalls.
He says that he’s glad to see people investing in the band through the Band Shell Fund. “The Cedar Rapids Municipal Band has been sort of a staple of Cedar Rapids’ summer and to see it progressing and the band playing better and improving in all ways possible is just a great sign.”
To date the fund has raised $91,000 of its $150,000 goal.