By Jon Swanson
Leon was the high school band director in a small town in Iowa. He started working on his Master’s degree. He figured out some research topic that sounded good, that was like all the rest of the Master’s research projects around.
His adviser said, “Forget that. Everyone is doing those kinds of projects. You are in a municipal band. No one studies those. Write about municipal bands.”
So Leon did. He wrote about the funding for bands, their roots in communities, the way that high school band directors often ended up being municipal band directors. He was the guy for municipal bands in Iowa.
He’s retired from teaching now, but if you ask him about the Hampton Municipal Band, he will tell you all about it, with passion and detail that draws you in. His love for that band and his ability to tell stories means that even I can tell you about the band in Hampton.
- The way Thursday night became an event in town, with stores staying open late and farm families coming to town, and the odd practice of everyone sitting in their cars around the block instead of coming into the park. And then beeping their horns instead of applauding.
- I can tell you about the delight of sitting on the stage in the early evening, looking through the trees at the courthouse, seeing the sky turn from deep blue to black as the band plays.
- And I can tell you about the marathon that Leon and a friend did, spending all day playing all the instruments in a band. Just the two of them. Taking pledges from town and from online. Enough pledges to rebuild the band shell. Tens of thousands of dollars.
Jon was a guest of Franklin County, Iowa, and his lodging and meals were provided as part of the Harvest Tour 2011.