St. Paul Police Band to celebrate 100th-anniversary with a special concert Thursday

St. Paul police band celebrating 100 years

St. Paul police band celebrating 100 years

On almost any given Tuesday night, you’ll find the Harding High School band room filled with the sound of music.  

“Really it’s just a matter of digging out your horn and joining us,” declares Chad Green, the music director of the St. Paul Police Band.

“What is the gift of music?” adds John Hueg, the band’s emcee, who’s also a euphonium player. “It’s not the musicians putting the music out, it’s also the audience hearing the music and responding to it.”

But these are not high school players.

Some have been creating music for decades.

“As long as my body says I can,” smiles Joe Heitzinger, the band’s drum major. “I’ve been a member of the band for 35 years. Just basically playing and been in a concert band, marching band since before high school.”

All 60 participating musicians are aware of how the group is steeped in history.  

“Three police officers had a vision back in 1923 and said, ‘Let’s put a band together,’” Hueg explains.

Now, the band is practicing for a musical milestone, after a century of performing in parades, concerts, police academy graduations and private performances.

Green has been busily prepping the musicians for a 100th-anniversary concert at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

“I love the music,” he says. “I love being with all these folks who love music and being able to do this, serving the city and the police department, I think it’s fantastic.”

The players are all volunteers — just a few have professional experience.

Green, a former music teacher, says some haven’t played since high school or college.

“Came back playing, 10 years, 20 years, in one case 40 years later,” he notes. “Without exception, everyone who has done that has said, ‘I wish I would’ve done this sooner.’”

Over the years, the number of active-duty officers in the band dwindled.

By the early 1980s, there were 15 to 20 officer-musicians — and now, there’s only one.

“Now I’m the lone representative,” declares Gary Salkowicz, the band president. “I’ve been retired from the department for 10 years.”

He’s hoping to change that, by recruiting a new generation of musicians — and he’s looking for about 15 new members.

“I want to recruit more active officers, just so it remains the St. Paul Police Band and not the St. Paul Police Community Band,”  Salkowicz says. “Just the fact we’re kind of goodwill ambassadors to the city of St. Paul and especially the St. Paul Police Department.”

The group plays about 45 events a year.

Their repertoire includes patriotic songs, John Phillips Souza marches, show tunes and pop standards.

But the band’s immediate mission is to practice, practice, practice — and do their audience and their community proud.

“We’ve heard them singing, we’ve heard them clapping, we’ve seen them crying,” Hueg says. “It’s one of those relationships in a person that grows — and that grows community.”

The St. Paul Police Band’s anniversary concert is scheduled for Thursday night at 7 p.m. on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Paul.

You can find out more about the band here.