SILVERTON BRASS BAND
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IT'S AN AMAZING TOWN THIS LITTLE can produce a sound this big! A Silverton tradition for twenty-seven years, the Silverton Brass Band draws crowds throughout the summer to its weekly Sunday concerts held on the streets of Silverton. You never know where they’ll end up playing. Just follow your ears until you find them, dressed in period finery and sounding better and better every year.
If you are lucky enough to catch a concert here in Silverton, you may be in for more than you bargained for. A tap dancing, xylophone player extraordinaire. A snare drummer who is a shameless show-off. And such telling of bad jokes! Such scrappiness! Such razzing between the sexes!
The lanky irascible founder of the band, Dale “Timberline” Myers, who kept things going in his inimitable way for two and a half decades, has recently up and joined a Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia, leaving the band’s fate in the capable hands of original tuba player Gary Miller. “We’ve had our ups and downs,” the new bandleader admited, “but there is a new enthusiasm now; we are a better quality music group than ever. We’re sounding really good!”
The band has come a long way from the day back in 1976 when nine souls with various noisemaking instruments gathered at a gravel pit at the base of Kendall Mountain to hold their first rehearsal. “We thought we were getting away from everyone by playing in the gravel pit,” explained original bass drum player Allen Nossaman (now deceased), “but we were actually amplified by the natural amphitheater there. We could be heard all over town.”
“—We were horrible,” horn player Jerry Hoffer laughed. Thence the origins of the Silverton Brass Band’s motto, “Exellere Gravam,” or, loosely translated, “To Rise above the Gravel Pit,”—which they soon succeeded in doing.
Before long, the Silverton Brass Band was boldly playing right in downtown Silverton. “We’d start playing on a street corner,” Miller recalled. “If we got to gathering too many people, though, we’d duck out the back door and go somewhere else. Large crowds made us pretty nervous.”
Hoffer allowed as how, “…most of us drank a lot. We worked in the mines, then we’d play in the street, go into the bar and get free drinks, until we were pretty well sloshed.
Stories are still told about the time the band almost got arrested for marching the wrong way down a one-way street in Central City, the time a guy gave them twenty dollars to stop playing (“We took the money and kept on playing,” laughed Miller), the time they crashed an all-school reunion in Telluride and had stuff thrown at them.
Such tales may put you in doubt as to the Silverton Brass Band’s musical merit. Don’t be misled. From the very beginning there has been a wonderful sort of fellowship among band members around making good music.
“I enjoyed the diversity and variety of music,” recaled Nossaman. “…South Rampart Street Blues, The Poet and Peasant Overture (that’s classical music, for Christ’s sake!), Dixieland, jazz, John Phillip Souza. It was just so wonderful and challenging.”
The annual Great Western Rocky Mountain Brass Band Festival, held each August in a blue and white striped big-top circus tent at the foot of Kendall Mountain, is an offshoot of the Silverton Brass Band and features musicians from across the country who come to Silverton for a week to play historic brass band music together. Directed for twenty-three years by St. Paul bandleader Paul Maybery, the free fest has “…totally grown from a little idea to a major Silverton presentation,” said Miller. “Everyone wants to come back. There is a long wait-list of musicians who want to play with us. The same spirit we had back in ‘76 and ‘77 is now driving the Brass Band Festival.”
Top: © Samantha Tisdel
Center and bottom right: © Kathryn Retzler