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Tom Muehlbauer (left) is the director of the Eden Prairie Community Band.

Members discuss why they joined, what it’s like being part of the band that begins its fall season Thursday, Oct. 10.

The Eden Prairie Community Band has grown from 23 players in 1973 to a group that has traveled around the world and spawned several other musical groups, including jazz and Dixieland ensembles.

Now under the direction of Tom Muehlbauer, the fourth director of the band, the band includes more than 60 musicians, most of whom hail from Eden Prairie.

The first trip overseas was in 1996 when the band traveled to Austria to help that country celebrate its millennium. That foray was followed by a tour of Italy and Switzerland in 1998. The band traveled to China in 2002 and to Ireland and Scotland in 2005. Greece was the destination in 2008.

The band has stayed at home in recent years, playing as the pit band for the musicals staged each summer by the Eden Prairie Players Community Theater. In December, the band hosts its annual “Share the Warmth” concert, where the local food shelf is the beneficiary of donations from audience members.

In addition to bringing the sweet sounds of music to the community, members also volunteer by participating in the adopt-a-highway cleanup on Pioneer Trail east of Flying Cloud Airport.

The band is preparing for fall concerts on Thursday, Oct. 10; Tuesday, Nov. 19; and Sunday, Dec. 8.

With rehearsals underway for those performances, three members of the band – Muehlbauer, Emily Gorman and Melody Baron – took time to answer questions from the Sun Sailor on why they participate in the band and what it means to them personally and musically. The answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Tom Muehlbauer

Q: Tell us about your background in music – how long you have been playing, your training and the types of instruments you play.

A: I play the reeds and keyboards. I started piano lessons when I was 5, picked up sax and clarinet in middle school. I majored in music education in college. I played professionally with a group called The Swinging Ambassadors for 22 years, then taught music in Minneapolis for 18 years.

Q: Tell us about your involvement with the EP community band. How long? What circumstances were involved in your decision to join the community band? What do you enjoy most about your participation?

A: About the time I switched careers, I was asked by a friend to join the band. This was 1989. I have always enjoyed making music, but my focus has changed greatly since I have been conducting the last three years.

Q: Tell us about some of the challenges you may have faced during your participation in the community band.

A: There really are no challenges other than those I place upon myself. Everyone is a volunteer who just wants to play music. Sometimes you have to adjust material if you have a temporary shortage of instrumentation ... but no real problems.

Q: If there was another instrument you would like to play, but haven’t, what would that be?

A: I have always thought that the French horn has the most beautiful, unique sound.

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Melody Baron is a dentist, mother, wife and musician who loves playing with the Eden Prairie Community Band.

Melody Baron

Q: Tell us about your background in music – how long you have been playing, your training, and the types of instruments you play.

A: Music has always been a big part of my life. My father earned a double major from Michigan State University, in music education and geography. In the 1960s, he directed his own big band dance band until teaching geography seemed a more practical job while raising a young family. While teaching geography at Winona State University, my father participated in music on the side. He played whatever instrument was needed for the proper balance for the WSU band and orchestra and played trombone in the Winona Municipal Band and Community Theater.

I began playing the flute and the piano at age 10. Practicing for two lessons a week was challenging as the new chapter in junior high began. Flute won out for the sensible decision that the long fingernails that I preferred were not conducive to good piano hand position. I studied flute privately from age 12-22, while performing with bands, orchestra, musical pit orchestra, weddings, church services and the Winona Municipal Band (with my dad), as well as studying voice and dance. I went on to earn a bachelor of fine arts in flute performance from the University of Minnesota in 1983.

Q: Tell us about your involvement with the EP community band. How long? What circumstances were involved in your decision to join the community band? What do you enjoy most about your participation?

A: I continued my education at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. During dental school, I had a Saturday job as a receptionist at a dental office in Golden Valley. One of the dental hygienists was a member of the Eden Prairie Community Band. She urged me to come and play along at a rehearsal. At the time, I was living on the college campus in Minneapolis. I started teaching flute lessons to a Minnetonka High School student at 6 p.m. on my way to my 7 p.m. band rehearsal in Eden Prairie. This kept me in regular attendance. The once a week band rehearsals kept me playing my flute and making the music that I loved. It is hard to take out an instrument and make the time to play, especially with a busy schedule, when you are not working toward a goal. I receive joy in creating music with fellow music enthusiasts. That’s why we are all here as a group.

Q: Tell us about some of the challenges you may have faced during your participation in the community band.

A: The biggest challenges for me have been balancing work, family and the activities of the other members of my household. I have four busy boys, a husband that manages his own business and a career as a dentist. The two-hour rehearsals on Thursday nights did not always make the top priority event, but I could make it work most weeks. I joined EPCB in 1986. When my fourth child was born, I took a sabbatical. I did rejoin EPCB for all of the international band tours during my time away. I came back to the band as a regular attendee in 2016.

Q: If there was another instrument you would like to play, but haven’t, what would that be?

A: I have always loved the sound of the flute, especially the low register and way the beautiful tone carries throughout the acoustics of a church sanctuary. There are many, many flute players completing for the available opportunities. But a great oboe player can always find a place to play because there are never enough of them. An oboe would definitely be an instrument I would consider.

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Emily Gorman at a community band concert.

Emily Gorman

Q: Tell us about your background in music – how long you have been playing, your training, and the types of instruments you play.

A: I started playing piano in the second grade, and picked up both the flute and saxophone in middle school. Then in high school, I decided to concentrate on flute and then started playing the piccolo as well. I had taken private lessons during middle and high school. During high school, I switched teachers to a flute professor at a local Milwaukee college. When I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison I played in the University Band, while getting my degree in chemistry. After I graduated in 2006, I moved to Minnesota and started playing with the EPCB, and I’ve been here ever since!

Q: Tell us about your involvement with the EP community band. How long? What circumstances were involved in your decision to join the community band? What do you enjoy most about your participation?

A: When I moved to Eden Prairie from Madison, I knew that I wanted to keep playing my musical instrument. I looked online at the Eden Prairie Parks website and found the band – it was so easy! I emailed the section leader at the time and went to the rehearsal the following week. The band has a lot of talented members, and playing with them helps me grow as a musician.

Q: Tell us about some of the challenges you may have faced during your participation in the community band.

A: The biggest challenge for me to-date was balancing the band with going to graduate school part-time and working full-time. When I got accepted to grad school, I was the band secretary and the flute section leader. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep doing all of these things, so I stepped down from being the flute section leader and band secretary – but I still got to keep playing in the section, for which I’m very grateful.

Q: If there was another instrument you would like to play, but haven’t, what would that be?

A: I’d like to become proficient at the piano. I’m practicing more, but it’s a challenge.

Eden Prairie Community Band fall concert schedule

• 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at Shorewood Landing in Shorewood

• 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Edinborough Park in Edina

• 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at Eden Prairie High School, “Share the Warmth” concert

For more information, contact Jes Schrom at 952-949-8304 or JSchrom@edenprairie.org.

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