The History of the Lake Wobegon® Brass Band

Origins of the Band

The Lake Wobegon® Brass Band was originated by three founding members at the Anoka Coffee Shop on a Saturday morning in early 1992.  Two of them had attended the 1991 North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) National Contest in Iowa and returned inspired to turn their dream of a Brass Band "right here in River City" into reality.  Charles Olson was asked to become conductor and music director.

Music was borrowed from the Sheldon Theatre Brass Band in Red Wing, MN.  Potential band members were contacted, and the first rehearsal was held on February 29, 1992, at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.   Monthly rehearsals followed during the spring, and in June the band hosted a Yamaha-NABBA Brass Band Workshop.  Dr. Paul Droste, President of NABBA and conductor of the Grand Champion Brass Band of Columbus, was guest conductor and clinician.

In the interim, hometown hero Garrison Keillor was contacted regarding the band assuming the name of his "hometown."  He responded, "I'm happy to give my permission.  The only condition is that you will let me know when the band is formed...and that at some mutually convenient time, you'll play at a picnic for me.  Good Luck."

The LWBB is now a proud member of NABBA, and is comprised of educators (music and otherwise), professional musicians, and several who have vocations outside the musical world.  We have been happily rehearsing and amazing ourselves since September of 1992.  Many of the original members are still with the band. 

The Lake Wobegon® Brass Band is co-sponsored by Anoka-Ramsey Community College and the Anoka Brass Band Association.

LAKE WOBEGON® is used by permission of Garrison Keillor and Minnesota Public Radio.  The Lake Wobegon® Brass Band has no official affiliation with "Prairie Home Companion."

Notable Performances

The LWBB has toured the United Kingdom on two occasions.  In July 2001 the band made a "pilgrimage" tour to England and Wales, which included shared concerts with the Bournemouth Concert Brass, the Tongwynlais Temperance Silver Band, and the ASDA Stocksbridge Band, as well as solo concerts at a folk museum, a country church in Birstwith, and the first-ever performance by an American brass band at the 120th Sandringham Flow Show in King's Lynn, England. 

The LWBB returned to the UK in July 2005 for a tour of Northern England and Scotland which featured shared concerts with the Easington Colliery Band and the Perthshire Brass, in addition to solo concerts at the Alnwick Playhouse and Callender Kirk.

The band has been privileged to perform by invitation at a number of music educators' conferences:  the Minnesota Music Educators Association's (MMEA) Mid-Winter Clinic, Minneapolis (1997 and 2012); the National Convention of the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA), Duluth (2002); the Music Educators National Converence (MENC), MInneapolis (2004); and the Vintage Band Festival in Northfield, MN (2006 and 2010).

On July 4, 2009, the band was also honored to participate by invitation in the 35th anniversary show for "A Prairie Home Companion®" with Garrison Keillor.  In addition to rehearsing pieces on stage with Mr. Keillor throughout the day, the band played three selections in the production before a live audience of an estimated 8,000 people in Avon, Minnesota, as well as to the millions who tuned in to Minnesota Public Radio nationally and internationally.

In February, 2012, the band premiered its commission, "Beyond Far Horizons," at the MMEA Mid-Winter Clinic, St. Andrew's Lutheran Church (Mahtomedi, MN) and the University of Minnesota - Duluth, with composer Philip Wilby conducting as part of his 10-day residence with the band. 

Two weeks later, the LWBB celebrated its 20th anniversary with a sellout concert, a 20-year retrospective program, and a large complement of past performers augmenting the band for the final pieces on the program.


Event Highlights

Our first performance – 10/24/92 at Peace Lutheran Church, Coon Rapids, MN

Shared performance with Garrison Keillor – 5/14/1994 at the Anoka Library Centennial Celebration

Premier of our first arrangement – “Lullaby on Christmas Eve” by J. Engebretson, 12/9/1996

Our first CD – A Lake Wobegon® Brass Band Christmas 1997

Performance at the Minnesota Music Educators Association Mid-Winter Clinic February, 1997

Our second CD – Jubilee 1999

Minnesota Public Radio Live Broadcasts at Lake Harriet 6/25/1999, 6/23/2000, 6/22/2001

Premier of our first original composition “The Hill Called Vøerbjerg” by Michael Halstensen 2/25/2001

Performance Tour to England and Wales with Presentation to the Queen Mother and Charles, Prince of Wales 7/2001

Our third CD – Live from the United Kingdom 2001

Performance at the American School Bandmasters Association Convention 7/31/2002

Performance at the Music Educators National Conference Convention 4/17/2004

Our fourth CD – Bravura! 2004

Performance Tour to England and Scotland 7/2005

Performances at The Vintage Band Festival in Northfield 7/30/2000, 8/7/2010

Our 100th Performance 12/10/2006

“A Lake Wobegon® Brass Band Christmas Carol Concert” written by D. Philippot 12/2007

Our fifth CD – Welcome, Christmas! 2008

Live performance on the 35th Anniversary Show of A Prairie Home Companion 7/4/2009

Performance of “Beyond Far Horizons,”written especially for the LWBB by Philip Wilby, who conducted the World Premier at the Minnesota Music Educators Convention 2/16/2012

Our 150th Performance - 20th Anniversary Concert & Celebration 3/4/2012