My Musical Family - Joy Riggs

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My great-grandfather, Bandmaster G. Oliver Riggs, right, gives a cornet lesson to my dad, William J. Riggs, near Bemidji, Minnesota, in the early 1940s.
Updated: 1 hour 54 min ago

12 Unbelievable Photos of My Great-Grandfather

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 5:53pm
You won’t believe where we’ve spotted Flat G. Oliver Riggs on vacation this summer! The 143-year-old bandmaster really got around, visiting his old music-related haunts in Bemidji, Des Moines and Chicago. He also found time to attend a Riggs family picnic in the Twin Cities. It must help to travel light.

Take a look and vote for your favorite!

No. 12: Reconnecting with old friends Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji
Paul Bunyan and Babe date back to 1937; G. Oliver directed Bemidji bands from 1919-1923.
No. 11: Admiring himself at the Beltrami County History Center
G. Oliver with his 1922 Bemidji Boys’ Band
No. 10: Along the Bemidji lake front, circa 1900 (via the history center exhibit)
Before G. Oliver’s time as director, band concerts were held along the lakeshore.
No. 9: Surrounded by descendants at the Riggs Family Picnic

No. 8: With his mini me, Griffin — or is it the other way around?

No. 7: Goofing at the Drake Tent at the 2014 Iowa State Fair
G. Oliver, Oberlin grad, class of 1892; Steve, Drake grad, class of 1990
No. 6: Strolling the grounds of the 1909 Iowa State Fair
G. Oliver played cornet in an Iowa regimental band at the 1910 State Fair.
No. 5: Visiting the Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair Exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago
G. Oliver’s future wife, Islea, attended the World’s Fair with her parents and sister.
No. 4: Admiring the Bean and the contrast between old and new in Millenium Park
G. Oliver studied violin in Chicago in 1894.
No. 3: Touring the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
G. Oliver and his Montana Cowboy Band performed in the auditorium lobby in 1912.
No. 2: Shopping for music at the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Ave.
G. Oliver studied cornet under Chicago bandmaster A.F. Weldon. 

No. 1: Pondering the quote in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building

The historic 10-story building was designed specifically for working artists – people like G. Oliver!

Categories: Citizens

Vintage Band Festival 2014

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 9:58pm
We had the perfect weather on Saturday for the One Day Vintage Band Festival. The only thermometer that burst was the one we created with cardboard and a red marker to track our donations. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but the other board members and I were happy and relieved that it worked out.

While some audience members sat and listened to the morning concerts, others browsed the Riverwalk Market Fair.My sincere thanks goes out to the members of all 12 bands that performed that day (13 if you include the Tuba Dorks, who played a special gig at the Contented Cow), to all the audience members who came and were entertained, to all of our business and other sponsors, to the organizers of the Riverwalk Market Fair, to the City of Northfield, and to all of the volunteers who helped make the event a success.

Our St. Olaf interns, Sarah and Emily, masterfully operate the donation/information tent.One of my favorite moments of the day was when I was surprised by my childhood neighbor, John Engebretson, who found me in the crowd late in the morning. John is a band director who lives in a Twin Cities suburb, and he had come to the festival to substitute on saxophone for a member of the band Swing and a Miss.

That’s one of the things I love about the Vintage Band Festival – the event brings people together through a common interest, a love of music, and it makes the world feel smaller, in a good way.

John Engebretson performing with Swing and a Miss/photo by John WaltersJohn also comes from a musical family; his dad, Paul Engebretson, and my dad have played together in bands for as long as I can remember. This Thursday, they will perform a 7 p.m. concert on the courthouse lawn in Alexandria, Minn., as members of Doc’s All Stars, a group Paul founded in 1982. If you’re going to be in the Alexandria area, you should go; they will be playing music from the Big Band era, and the concert is free.
Sebastian and Steve, singing along with the Manitou Brass Regimental BandSpeaking of free, although admission to the One Day Vintage Band Festival was free, we planned the event as a fundraiser. It costs about $130,000 to host the four-day band festival, and the next one is only two years away. The other board members and I were thrilled to learn that people had donated so generously throughout the day on Saturday, we exceeded our $5,000 goal for the event. This is great news, because it helps put us on a more stable path toward planning the best four-day event yet, set for July 28-31, 2016.

Copper Street Brass Quintet, the last of 12 bands, prepares to perform in Bridge Square.People were so enthusiastic and encouraging about the one day event, it’s likely we will hold another one next summer. Keep checking our website for more information about that and other Vintage Band Festival-related activities. And if you weren’t able to attend Saturday’s event and would like to make a tax-deductible donation, you can also do that through our website.

Categories: Citizens

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