Ole Band practices environmental awareness

On Friday, Oct. 10, the St. Olaf Band set out on its Annual National Tour. Band members flew to Nevada for their first performance in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 11. After that, the band made its way through the Southwest and then toward the Midwest, stopping to perform in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Mesa, Ariz.; Albequerque, N.M.; Monument, Col.; Denver, Col.; Salina, Kan.; Overland Park, Kan. and Mason City, Iowa.

Founded in 1891, the St. Olaf Band is the college’s oldest musical ensemble. It has been touring nationally since 1904 and internationally since 1906. Dr. Timothy Mahr ’78, a professor of music, has directed the band since 1994.

The program for the 2014 tour, called “Mostly British,” included – as its title suggests – music primarily from the United Kingdom. In addition to works by Holst, Elgar and Vaughan Williams, the band debuted a work by Mahr, “by blue lake, listening, dancing.”

John Kronlokken ’16 is a percussionist in the St. Olaf Band. He said that the band’s annual tour is not only about making great music, but also about becoming a cohesive team. Bandies, as they are affectionately known, spend a lot of time together as they tour – on stage, in homestays with local families along the way and during the many, many hours spent riding the bus.

“The best part of tour, besides playing great music, is getting the opportunity to meet all kinds of new people,” said Kronlokken. “We travel together, eat together and live together.” Conlan Campbell ’18, a trumpet player, said that his first experience touring with the St. Olaf Band was intense.

“Most people probably don’t realize how rigorous the tour is,” said Campbell. “The plan is to essentially ride buses all day until we arrive at the venue, where we practice and then play a concert every night. It is fulfilling and fun, but definitely tiring.”

While there were occasional hiccups that resulted in extra-long bus rides or extra-short setup and rehearsals, Kronlokken said the tour was a successful one.

“My favorite part of the St. Olaf Band is the strong sense of community,” said Kronlokken. “My fellow musicians constantly support and challenge me to be the best musician, and more importantly, the best person that I can be.”

In addition to its dedication to music making and community building, the St. Olaf Band has demonstrated its commitment to reducing the carbon footprint the annual national tour leaves, not to mention that of the quadrennial international tour. In order to diminish its environmental impact, the band formed Eco Crew, a committee of band members led by Amy Neidich ’15, who plays the clarinet.

“The band – and also the orchestra – offset the carbon we emit on tours by asking farmers near Northfield not to till their land,” said Ethan Boote ’15, a bassoonist. Boote said that the band’s low-carbon tours are something very few people on campus know about. Here’s how the program works:

Eco Crew calculates the carbon emissions that the band will emit on its tour. Then, the band purchases carbon credits from Northfield-area farmers who practice no-till farming. No-till farming is simply the process of leaving cornstalks in the ground after harvest instead of turning them over and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Eco Crew pays for the carbon credits with a slight increase in annual dues for band members as well as donations.

According to the program printed for the 2014 tour, “Eco Crew also works to raise awareness among band members about the environmental impact of sending such a large group on tour. Crew leaders are responsible for adding recycling bags to tour buses, limiting the number of programs printed and pointing out to band members simple, eco-friendly actions, such as taking shorter, cooler showers and traveling with reusable water bottles.”

Bandies returned to campus after a 10-day expedition on Sunday, Oct. 19. The band will culminate its tour in a concert on Sunday, Oct. 26 at 3:30 p.m. in Skoglund Auditorium.