Jun 22, 2024 | By: Sammy Holladay

In Focus: Northwoods Wind Ensemble in Pillager

The Northwoods Wind Ensemble in Pillager was founded last year to have a community band available year-round in the Brainerd Lakes Area. Since then, it has grown to around 30 members from all over northern and central Minnesota.

“Quite a few of our members are from Pillager. It helps that we have the band director of Pillager [Public Schools] helping guide some students into the ensemble, students or ex-students,” said Northwoods Wind Ensemble Director Tristen Heller. “Quite a few people come from Brainerd proper, Brainerd, Baxter. There’s several people I know that come over from by Staples, Verndale, Wadena. I personally come all the way up from Remer – a little bit of a drive for me. There’s one guy that comes from Grand Rapids.”

Everyone involved in the ensemble has a deep passion for music. Some members even play in multiple community bands around the area.

“I enjoy playing. I’ve played clarinet for 60 years, and now that I’m retired, I look for groups to play with,” explained clarinetist Jeanne Rohr. “And this summer I’m in four different musical groups.”

Not only do members get to continue their passion in playing an instrument, but joining community bands like the Northwoods Wind Ensemble gives them the opportunity to build friendships that can last a lifetime.

“I would say that probably 80% of the people in that room right now I’ve known 20 years, maybe,” said Northwoods Wind Ensemble co-founder and trumpeter Rob Freelove. “Some are younger and they’re just new to the group, but in our community as you get to know the musicians, it’s not such a vast amount of people you get that – you end up knowing them all and building friendships. And then, you know, sometimes somebody from the next town over will say, ‘Hey, come play in this group with us.'”

Some people have never experienced a live music performance. What the Northwoods Wind Ensemble hopes to offer is an opportunity for people living in the area, especially smaller communities, to be able to have an experience to remember.

“In Pillager, we’re a town of 500 people and there’s some people who have never seen a band in their life from here,” stated Brendon Warren, a co-founder and director of the group. “So having this opportunity, we just have to create buy-in, play music that people know and love for people to feel a need or reason to support us.”

The Northwoods Wind Ensemble will perform two concerts this summer on June 30 and August 11 at 2 pm at the Pillager CTC Center. If you or anyone you know are interested in joining the ensemble, you can contact them through their website.

Lakeland News is member supported content, please consider supporting Lakeland PBS today.

Support the Businesses That Support Lakeland PBS

Related News