Category Archives: VBF Bands

VBF Celebrates 10 years: 2006-2016

VBF 2016 Cloisonné pin

For Immediate Release

July 1, 2016

Vintage Band Festival Celebrates 10 Years: July 28-31, 2016

Artistic Director: Paul Niemisto,; 612-308-6857

Media Contact: Dan Bergeson,; 507-581-0553

(Northfield, MN) – Northfield, located in southern Minnesota — known for its appreciation of music and history — has become a travel destination within the Midwest sought out for its authentic experience. The Vintage Band Festival, to be held July 28-31, will be the highlight of the summer as it welcomes re-enactment bands from across the US and abroad to “dust off their horns and old sheet music” and bring music to life — in all of its glory — from days gone by.

The international festival boasts 100 concerts at outdoor parks, performance stages, dining establishments and pubs in the picturesque river town of Northfield and at a multitude of festival concert sites in nearby communities. Find a full schedule of “living history” performances, auxiliary events and attractions, plus a sample travel itinerary for discovering more treasures in southern Minnesota, at

Amid the vast collection of performing bands that accentuate cultural influences, genres and period-inspired repertoires several Midwest historic revival bands are participating in this year’s Festival. Today’s audience can hear what Presidents Lincoln and Davis, Generals Lee and Grant, and their contemporaries heard in their

The 1st Brigade Band, from Watertown, Wisconsin, dressed in navy blue uniforms takes as its inspiration the  eighteen men from the Brodhead Brass Band who enlisted in the Union Army in 1864 as the Band of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 15th U.S. Army Corps. They served under the command of General William T. Sherman. After locating and restoring dented and broken instruments and reconstructing torn music sheets, the 1st Brigade Band continues this musical legacy from 150 years ago. This will be the third time this band has performed at the Vintage Band Festival.

Another ensemble which will relive music of the 19th Century is the Independent Silver Band (ISB) of Mount Vernon, Illinois. Back in its heyday, the community enjoyed “first class entertainment and boundless enjoyment” as the ISB played for “balls, picnics, parties, political rallies, and more.” By bringing together interested brass players and percussionists from Mt. Vernon and surrounding cities and towns in southern Illinois, William L. Reynolds created a proper team of dedicated persons who could provide the chance to hear the music of a bygone time. With their very stylish green uniforms, unique helmets, and a complete “show” with narration, they will be coming to Northfield to entertain for a second time.

19th century brass bands have been described as having sweet and mellow intonations, but to have survived and flourished in a time of great conflict within our country, the music served a broader, brasher purpose that uplifted the morale of its people during an era of clashing dissonance. This unforgettable time would become a defining part of our national heritage and have a pronounced and resounding effect on the history of music in America today.

2016 is also within the centennial period of World War I and some bands will honor this history and present an additional focus for the Festival.  A highlight will be an outdoor Victory Dance with the Buddy Koopmans Swing Orchestra on Saturday night.

While the bands will perform individual concerts on all of the Festival days, on Saturday, July 30th, the Battle of the Bands takes place at noon on the Riverfront. Many community bands from all over Minnesota will also be included in the schedule each day. Evening entertainment will include appearances by Copper Street Brass, Jack Brass Band and Banda La Verdadera, all well-known professional ensembles from the metropolitan Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

Brass bands have been important in Minnesota since the 1850s. The Great Western Band was active as early as 1858. The St. Anthony Brass Band played for the grand opening of the suspension bridge over the Mississippi in St. Anthony in 1863. In 1861, the Red Wing brass band played as they sent Civil War volunteers to Fort Snelling. When the soldiers returned after the war, they were greeted by the Great Western Band at the St. Paul Train Station. A group from the Vintage Band Festival, The Manitou Regimental Band, played in 2015 for a reenactment of the return of Minnesota troops from the Civil War arriving on a paddle wheeler at Fort Snelling.

For more information on how the pages of history turn as the musical faintness has been captured in the wafts of distant winds and brought into the present, visit the Vintage Band website at The 2016 band roster and complete schedule of events is located there. Find Vintage Band Festival on Facebook at “Vintage Band Festival” and Twitter at @vintagebandfest.


This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Vintage Band Festival 2016 Band Roster

March 14, 2016

For immediate release

Artistic Director: Paul Niemisto,; 612-308-6857

Media Contact: Dan Bergeson,; 507-581-0553

Northfield, Minnesota—The Board of Directors of Vintage Band Festival has announced the roster for Vintage Band Festival 2016 scheduled to take place in Northfield July 28-31, 2016. 2016 marks the tenth anniversary for the Vintage Band Festival organization which has staged five previous events. Festivals in 2006, 2010 and 2013 were four-day affairs and those in 2014 and 2015 were each one-day “Mini-Fests.”

There will be both international and domestic bands at this year’s festival. The international bands are traveling to Minnesota from Belgium, Germany and Sweden. The domestic bands represent seven states: Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Minnesota bands comprise the largest contingent with 18 bands on the list. The complete roster can be found here.

Vintage Band Festival 2016 will showcase seven bands making their first appearance at the festival. Four of the first-timers are Civil War re-enactor bands, one is a brass quartet, one is a clarinet sextet and one is a Hispanic “Banda”, Banda la Verdadera, from Minneapolis, MN. Two of the Civil War bands are from Iowa, one is from Illinois and one is from Indiana.

Bridge Square Main Stage headliners at the Vintage Band Festival 2016 will be Copper Street Brass, Jack Brass Band, Banda la Verdadera and Brass Messengers.

Vintage Band Festival 2016 is a four-day brass and wind extravaganza taking place in multiple locations throughout Northfield and surrounding southern Minnesota communities. 30 bands will present over 100 concerts during the festival in parks, churches, retirement communities, veterans clubs, bars and pubs. The festival is free and open to the public. Complete information can be found at

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Vintage Band Festival 2013 Report to Donors

November 22, 2013

2013 was the best Vintage Band Festival yet.  Bands from Sweden, Germany, Austria, Texas, Chicago, Maryland, Michigan, Texas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota converged on Northfield Minnesota for 5 days of intense brass wind music.   Artistic director Paul Niemisto designed the festival to showcase vintage brass music, and to highlight the best of contemporary brass music from New Orleans jazz to Chicago shout bands to professional European brass ensembles.  Bringing all these together in one place makes the Vintage Band Festival unique in North America.

VBF 2013 was exponentially larger than either of the previous festivals. 35 bands provided a combined total of 134 unique musical experiences. In 2010, concerts were staged in seven communities beyond Northfield.  For 2013 we added six more towns to make a total of 13: Faribault, New Ulm, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Chatfield, New Prague, Minneapolis, Scandia, St. Peter, Owatonna, Nerstrand, Montgomery and Kasota.

Staffing for VBF 2013 followed a similar format to the previous two festivals, though more people were required due to the increase in the number of band, communities and events.  A platoon of volunteers run the festival, ably coordinated this year by our omni-competent St. Olaf College interns Mitch Evett and Ramsey Walker.  The VBF website was completely redesigned to give concert-goers far more information. The online event schedule was transformed into an interactive experience complete with a biography of each band, a photo of the band and a Google map showing directions to the concert location. An additional Google map displayed all of the concert locations and directions to each one. Free audio samplers of most of the bands were made available using the SoundCloud service.

FESTIVAL GROWTH         2006-2013

Budget                 Bands                    Events                  Attendance        Communities

2006         $38,000               20                           36                           9,000                    2

2010       $100,000              25                           91                           12,000                   8

2013       $170,000              35                           134                         15,000                   14

What’s Next for the Vintage Band Festival

Artistic growth has exceeded our administrative infrastructure and fundraising ability, which needs to grow to match our artistic reach.  We need to recruit board members with specific skills, add to our administrative structure, and pay off about $50,000 in accumulated debt from the three Vintage Band Festivals.  We feel we are at a not-unexpected place for a young festival. We believe we are at a not-unexpected place in our organizational life.  We have established a successful festival unique in North America, and now need to build additional organizational infrastructure to support it.  We believe the $170,000 we spent this year is a reasonable budget to put on a festival of this caliber, and we also believe we can raise that level of support for each festival going forward, given the dedicated audience we have built.

From now through 2014 we expect to

  • Recruit additional board members with specific skills in finance, administration, and fundraising.
  • Improve our communication with and outreach to friends and donors.
  • Establish an annual giving club – our very own “Band-aid” to support VBF in planning as well as in festival years.
  • Extinguish the approximately $50,000 in debt we have accumulated.

By 2015 and 2016 we expect to

  • Hire our first part time administrator to manage preparations for the festival.
  • Program and present the 4th, and best yet, Vintage Band Festival 2016.

What the Vintage Band Festival Needs from Our Friends

  1. Board members with specific skills in finance, administration, and fundraising.  If you would like to nominate someone or volunteer, please let us know.
  2. Friends who will consider holding part of our accumulated deficit as no-interest loans for a period of two years while we negotiate payments and increase our fundraising capacity.
  3. Dedicated supporters who will pledge an annual gift to the Vintage Band Festival so we have adequate planning funds in the off years.  We especially appreciate annual gifts of $100, $500, or even $1,000 which can help us build a reliable income.
  4. Gifts of any amount now so we can build up an advance reserve fund for the 2016 Vintage Band Festival.

Thank you for your past support of the Vintage Band Festival.  You, our friends and audience, are a vital part of the Vintage Band Festival experience.

Paul Niemisto, Artistic Director

Jan Stevens, President of the Board of Directors