Tag Archives: Great American Brass Band Festival

A Brief History of Vintage Band Festival

What is Vintage Band Festival?

Vintage Band Festival (VBF) is designed to celebrate the beautiful downtown of Northfield, Minnesota as an outdoor music performance venue and an attractive destination for local music and history lovers, as well as for tourists from all over the United States.

VBF strives to create a high quality music listening experience that will satisfy and be memorable; to cultivate the historical theme of our city through emphasis on historical music, dress, dance, and ambience; and to use the entire city as an outdoor performance venue, including parks, retirement centers, as well as Division St areas, and churches.

VBF engages the cooperation of many interested local organizations, institutions and businesses in a united effort to accomplish a great cultural event and to reach audiences of all ages and backgrounds with a wide variety of performances.

VBF has become a destination for nationally and internationally known wind bands as well as for regional and statewide groups.

Mariachi mi Tierra at VBF 2018

Background and History

The “Vintage Band Music Festival” was founded in Northfield in July 2006. The motivation for this new festival stemmed from often-expressed general feeling among Northfield arts supporters that the city is a ready-made outdoor performance venue waiting to host a significant event. VBF was an idea developed by Artistic Director Paul Niemisto, inspired by his previous experiences with similar festivals such as The Kaustinen Folk Music Festival in western Finland, the Lieksa International Brass Week, held annually in eastern Finland in late July, and the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville, Kentucky, the only other event of its kind in the U.S.

Matterhorn Alphorns at VBF 2006

Another motivator for 2006 Festival came from having the International Society for the Promotion and Research of Wind Music, (International Gesellschaft zur Erforschung und Förderung der Blasmusik) and the Historic Brass Society hold their joint academic conference concurrent with the VBF event. The idea of a “major music festival” and “a major international music conference” taking place in Northfield began to develop in 2002, and the resulting synergy allowed for a successful outcome for both events. The academic conference, while not essential to the VBF festival, did lend the whole event an importance that was significant for the inaugural event. The Historic Brass Society returns for each large conference. (http://www.historicbrass.org/)

The models and subsequent plans for the first VBF 2006 created a success far beyond expectations. 50 musical performances were presented in 2006 by 20 ensembles over four days. Additional festivals have taken place in 2010 (4 days), 2013 (4 days), 2014 (1 day), 2015 (1 day), 2016 (4 days), 2017 (1 day), and 2018 (1 day). Recent multi-day events now have 35 or more bands and present more than 100 performances in the Northfield/Dundas area and surrounding communities.

Today Vintage Band Festival has an international reputation and  enjoys a treasured place in the cultural life of southern Minnesota. VBF 2019 will take place August 1-4, 2019.

–Paul Niemisto

Press Release: Brush Up On Your Brass!

Vintage Band Festival




Brush Up On Your Brass!
Vintage Band Festival Aug. 1-4, 2013

NORTHFIELD, MN (March 23, 2013) – The Vintage Band Festival is once again proud to present performances from a wide variety of brass bands. A rich history is found in British-style brass bands. Two Minnesota-based bands in this tradition will appear at the Vintage Band Festival in August — the Lake Wobegon® Brass Band and the Sheldon Theatre Brass Band.

This band style began during Britain’s industrial era, when newly invented brass valves were being mass-produced. The resulting cultural change took “playing in a band” to a new level, inspiring challenging contests that enlivened the working communities, heightening spirits and creating a category of band music all its own. Today the North American Brass Band Association embodies this tradition passed down through the centuries, while many heritages continue to embrace British-style music throughout the world.

An important distinction with British-style brass band instruments is that they were standardized and transposed to the treble clef, meaning you could pick up just about any instrument and you wouldn’t have to learn new fingering (just adjust to the new mouthpiece) – for example playing a Soprano Cornet (E♭) could be taught like a Flugelhorn (B♭) or a Tenor Horn (E♭) according to the notes on the staff.

Populated by music educators and serious amateurs from around the Mississippi River shores, the Sheldon Theatre Brass Band of Red Wing plays a regular series of performances at the T.B. Sheldon Auditorium as a “house band” and also performs concerts in other regional communities. They have played at the National Brass Band competition and even hosted the event in Red Wing one year. They also appeared at the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville, Kentucky. This will be the band’s third appearance at the Vintage Band Festival.

The Lake Wobegon® Brass Band formed in 1992 and is cosponsored by Anoka-Ramsey Community College and the Anoka Brass Band Association. When Garrison Keillor was contacted regarding the band’s name, he responded, “I’m happy to give my permission. The only condition is that you will let me know when the band is formed…and that at some mutually convenient time, you’ll play at a picnic for me. Good Luck.”

The band’s many notable performances include the 35th anniversary show for A Prairie Home Companion and a number of music educators’ conferences.

“We had a blast being a part of the Vintage Band Festival in 2006 and 2010 and look forward to a chance to be a part of the festivities again in Northfield this summer,” said Chris Ravndal, the band’s executive manager and principal solo cornet.

The Vintage Band Festival is a four-day celebration featuring bands from across the US and abroad. Over 100 concerts fill the streets of historic Northfield and will be staged at satellite sites throughout southern Minnesota on August 1-4. The Festival offers a variety of genres, ethnic influences, and period-style performances. Visit http://vintagebandfestival.org/ for more information.

Find the VBF on Facebook at “Vintage Band Festival” and Twitter at @vintagebandfest.

8/25/08 - Red Wing, Minn. - Sheldon Brass Band

Sheldon Theatre Brass Band


Lake Wobegon® Brass Band