What started out as idle chat between co-workers has turned into the Silverton Brass Band celebrating its 45th birthday. (This newsroom knows a thing or two about idle chatting – it’s how we ended up starting what’s now more than a decade of New Year’s Day polar plunges into the Animas.)
The band will throw a party Saturday afternoon by performing on the lawn of the San Juan County Courthouse, said Gary Miller, tuba player and the last surviving member who has played every single year for the last 45 years. He added there are a couple of other longtime members and an original member who is planning to pick up his tuba for the occasion.
Miller said that brass bands, community bands and orchestras were common as people migrated west, and in fact, Silverton had a brass band even earlier than the one celebrating 45 years.
For the formation of this brass band, it was all about the lunchroom conversations, he said.
What: Silverton Brass Band concert.
When: 3-4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: San Juan County Courthouse, 1557 Greene St., Silverton.
“What happened was, I got to Silverton in 1976, and mining activity was going strong, Standard Metals was going bonkers, the American Tunnel was back in full production and the town was full of miners,” Miller said. “During their lunch breaks, they would crawl into this little hole in the ground at 13,000 feet that they called ‘the lunch room,’ and they would pick up their lunch buckets ... and after they’d eat their lunch there was always conversation – who knows what the conversation was, but one theme kept coming back through the darkness, and that theme was how much fun these individuals had in their high school marching band. We had a fellow off in the back, he was kind of new to town, and he said, ‘There’s a trombone player over there, and there’s a coronet player over there, there’s a horn player over there, and I play trombone.’ His name was Dale Meyers.”
The rest is history. Now, the band includes about 15 musicians, who set up on Silverton’s street corners and play, or march through the streets – and it’s this sense of community that is exactly the point, Miller said, adding that anyone is welcome in the band.
“It’s part of the old spirit of Silverton. Silverton used to have a motto of the mining town that wouldn’t quit. That’s just been part of our plan,” he said. “We still hurt for musicians every once in a while. It’s a town band, we take whoever wants to play, doesn’t matter if you come off the Broadway circuit or haven’t picked up your horn in 20 years, you get to play.”