The Loveland Concert Band has provided the soundtrack to the town’s celebrations for over four decades, and Kirk Martinson has been there every step of the way.
On Monday, he and the band will be back on stage for the annual July 4 concert at North Lake Park after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The LCB was formed in 1977 to give amateur musicians the opportunity to continue playing with an ensemble beyond their high school years. The group usually performs a series of free concerts throughout the year and does outreach in local schools.
Typically, there are between 60 and 75 musicians playing with LCB, although the number fluctuates from gig to gig.
Martinson, retired from a career as a travel agent, is one of the founding members of the group and currently sits on the board of directors. He now plays tuba-like euphonium for the band, although he started out on trumpet.
The lifelong resident of Loveland recently reflected on his time with LCB and their upcoming return to the Independence Day festivities.
1. How long have you been playing the euphonium?
I only played for probably 20 years because I was playing trumpet when I started with the band. We ended up having a lot of trumpets and no euphoniums, so I asked my manager, ‘is it hard to switch from one thing to another?’ And he said, ‘no, it’s very simple’. He found me a horn. I’ve been playing it ever since.
In fact, I really like the euphonium. It is not as marketable an instrument as a trumpet. Because there are not many bands that contain euphoniums, but I really like it. This is very fun. It has a great sound. It’s just nice to play something different.
2. Why did you join the community group?
It’s just great fun. When I was playing in school, when I started, my manager thought it would be a good experience to play with a group of adults. And I absolutely loved playing with all these adults and college kids. I thought, ‘wow, that’s cool.’ Then when I left school—I didn’t choose to go to university, I went straight into the job market—I didn’t have many opportunities to play.
A lot of people will be joining us who maybe haven’t played for 15 to 20 years or more, or haven’t played since they graduated, and they wanted to get the horn out and blow the dust, and start playing. You know, it’s a bit like riding a bike. It comes back to you, you just have to get your mouth used to playing again, and then it comes back.
That’s one of the best things about community bands is that people who don’t major in music or don’t focus on music still have ways to keep playing. We have doctors and lawyers, and you name it. Our band has all kinds of different people who didn’t choose music as a career, but they’re still great musicians, and they really like having an avenue to play.
3. What is the most rewarding aspect of being in a community group?
I love the music we play. In fact, I play all year round. Some people in our group only play in the summer, as they are too busy during the year. We do more formal gigs in the fall and winter and in the spring where we have our tuxedos on and we play in a normal auditorium type setup, whereas in the summer we play in the amphitheater, and we let’s wear a polo shirt and our black pants and it’s just more relaxed.
The music varies a lot. I love music and we play all kinds of music. We show tunes, things like movie themes. It’s a variety – the director programs music that is more appealing to our audience, because a lot of our audience comes to hear things that they know to some extent. And then he’ll throw some hard stuff, but I think he’s finally realizing that the band loves popular music more than the challenge.
4. Was it difficult to take a break due to COVID?
It was actually very difficult. My highlight of the summer is the band, and has been for years. I can’t wait to see people I don’t see all year, like other middle schoolers and others who come back to play with us every year. We didn’t have that. And being home and not being able to go to the park and play and be with our friends, it was just very, very difficult.
The first rehearsal we had after COVID that we came back to that stage at the amphitheater, people were in tears. I had a hard time. We were supposed to get up and just talk. In fact, it’s hard for me to talk about it now. We’re a very tight-knit group, and we were back with the family, that’s kind of how we felt. People were saying how great it was to be back. And we started playing, and we got bigger and bigger and more and more people were coming back. Our group is bigger this summer than I have ever seen.
5. What has LCB planned for this year’s 4th of July concert?
We almost all do patriotic stuff, but we add fun pieces, like a movie or Disney theme, so it’s really appealing to all ages. But we do “America the Beautiful” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Stars and Stripes Forever”. It’s very, very patriotic.
We pay tribute to the armed forces. When we play a part of the song that is for the Air Force, for example, we ask anyone in the audience who was in the Air Force to stand up and be recognized. We do the same for the Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard.
Because I take it so close to me, I go and play them sometimes and just have to take a minute break to get the lump out of my throat. Because music is so important. I’m sorry, I’m getting a little emotional, but that’s how I am with this band. The 4th of July is my best part of the season. Can’t wait to reunite with our group for the fourth at the park with the fireworks over the lake. It’s just a really cool thing.
Band: Loveland Concert Band, founding member, board member and euphonium player
Years with band: 45