DeKalb Municipal Band celebrates 160 years

DeKALB – The DeKalb Municipal Band, the country's longest continuous-running municipal band, is marking its 160th anniversary of free weekly outdoor concerts.

"It's a pretty special summer," Sue Huhta, the band's publicist, said. "The band is 160 years old, which is remarkable for a city band."

The band formed in 1854 as a brass band, the DeKalb Silver Cornet Band. By 1900, woodwind and percussion instruments had been added, making the band a concert band in need of a conductor. Three generations of the Palmer family led the band, ending with Dee Palmer, who was the band's director from 1947 until 2011.

Kirk Lundbeck, at first the band's substitute director, became the permanent conductor in 2012.

"It was a difficult decision to become the director," Lundbeck said. "I gave up my position as principal trombone, which I held for 34 years, and I knew that it was going to be hard to fill Dee Palmer's shoes. ...My goal as director is to keep the legacy and integrity of the band alive while moving in a new direction with a variety of music in every program."

The band plays between 15 and 18 songs at each concert and will have special concert events, such as a stargazing night with music from the movies "Star Wars" and "E.T.," and a children's concert with songs from Disney and Pixar movies.

"We want to build and create an audience of people who never came to concerts before," Lundbeck said. "We want to draw people in, since all of the music will touch somebody, somewhere, whether it is a kid with music from 'Frozen' or an adult listening to Glenn Miller."

The band's first performance of the season will be at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 10, in the Hopkins Park Dee Palmer Bandshell. Concerts will be held at 8 p.m. each Tuesday until mid-August.

"The band is what it is because of the people that come back year after year and play," Huhta said. "This with be my 46th year with the band. ...I wouldn't know what to do with my summer without the band."

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