The History of The Minnesota State Band

The Minnesota State Band on a railway platform
The Minnesota State Band in 1906 at Murray, ND. (photo courtesy of Douglas Olson)

The Minnesota State Band was organized in 1898. Mr. Christian Selling of Saint Paul was the first conductor, serving the band until 1905. During this relatively short period of time, the band developed such an exceptional reputation that John Philip Sousa recruited from the Minnesota State Band for his famous band. Mr. Selling himself was recruited by Oscar Hammerstein I, and went to work for him in New York.

During this same period state bands existed in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, New York and Ohio along with Minnesota. Today, Minnesota has the only remaining state band in the nation. The band follows the Sousa tradition in programming both current popular and symphonic music for general audiences in its wide variety of concert selections each year. It has performed for numerous state functions over these many years at the Minnesota State Capitol building in Saint Paul and at other locations.

On June 5, 1905, the band was a featured part of the transfer of Minnesota's battle flags (including those from the Civil War) from the old state capitol building to the present state capitol. This ceremony was repeated by the Minnesota State Historical Society and the Minnesota State Band in 1985, when the state battle flags were restored and reconditioned, and again placed on their honored standards in the Minnesota State Capitol rotunda.

During its early periods, the band played extensive summer concerts at Lake Phalen in Saint Paul, Lake Minnetonka in Minnetonka, the Minnesota State Fair and Como Park Lakeside Pavilion in Saint Paul. Performances at Como Park are a continuing tradition for the band. The annual Como Concert Series is performed the first three Wednesday evenings in August each year, with concerts beginning at 7:00 pm.

The band performs all year around, and has staged concerts in many communities across Minnesota. Since 1986, the State Band has represented both Minnesota and the USA in six concert tours of Europe visiting Austria, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands (Holland), Poland, Spain and Switzerland. The band has extensive relations with the Musikverein Ellzee in Germany and with other bands from the countries it has visited.

While the band is invited to participate in international festivals around the world, its priority is to maintain the Minnesota State Band tradition in providing music with wide audience appeal through its concert performances each year in Minnesota.

Credit for much of the success and continuing vitality of the Minnesota State Band goes to Joseph Komro, Conductor for nearly 40 years. Mr. Komro's death in February, 2005 at age 60 was a significant loss to the group. Mrs. Faye Anne Tetzlaff was elected to be conductor by band members in November, 2005. After her retirement in January of 2009, Chuck Boody was selected to be conductor.

Band concerts frequently open with the state song "Hail! Minnesota," written in 1904 by Mr. Truman E. Rickard. It was adopted as Minnesota's official state song in 1945. Concerts traditionally conclude with the national march of the United States of America, "The Stars and Stripes Forever March" by John Philip Sousa.

Connecting the Past and the Present

Throughout our long history, the members of the Minnesota State Band have always felt an obligation to honor our veterans. So back on June 5, 1905, the Minnesota State Band played during the Ceremony to Transfer Minnesota's Battle Flags (including those from the Civil War) from the old state capitol building to the present state capitol. This ceremony was repeated by the Minnesota State Historical Society and the Minnesota State Band in 1985, when the state battle flags were restored and reconditioned, and again placed on their honored standards in the Minnesota State Capitol rotunda.

More recently, on July 27, 2003, the Minnesota State Band participated in the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Day Commemoration at the Court of Honor, Capitol Mall, St. Paul. On May 19, 2007, Armed Forces Day, the Band played at Fort Snelling National Cemetery as part of Echo Taps Worldwide. Finally, on May 31, 2010, the Minnesota State Band was proud to serve as the official band at the Memorial Day Ceremonies at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

While we have a distinguished history, we are not ones to rest on our laurels. We are an active, vibrant musical group that honors its past but always looks to the future.

Please feel free to contact us at anytime regarding Minnesota's Musical Tradition Since 1898 -- The Minnesota State Band. The band welcomes invitations to perform at public events throughout Minnesota and the Midwest.