Devils Lake Elks Community Band hosts "Sit-In" Concert

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal
The Devils Lake Elks Community Band hosted a "Sit-In" Concert at Roosevelt Park on Aug. 2.

DEVILS LAKE – When coupled with the soothing summer breeze, the tame weather provided the necessary accompaniment to the Devils Lake Elks Community Band Tuesday evening. 

Such a relaxing climate allowed the band to play nine total tunes with a handful of attending community members during the band’s annual “Sit-In” Concert on Aug. 2. 

The opportunity allowed the Devils Lake Elks Community Band to not only show out for one final time during the looming dusk of summer but do so with any non-band members wishing to take a crack at their instrument of choice for the first time in years. 

Such was the case for Megan Swenseth, a former Elks Community Band member (2011-16). 

Although Swenseth had experience in the band before the concert, it came with a somewhat dated asterisk. After all, life’s usual obstacles – including becoming a parent – prevented the flute player in Swenseth from remaining a full-time member. 

Even still, Swenseth braved the looming intimidation and returned to the ensemble ranks for the first time in six years.  

“I was actually really pleased that I was doing OK at sight-reading,” Swenseth said. “I haven’t played in so long. One of the ladies asked me, ‘When was the last time you picked up your flute?’ And I said, ‘Well, I tried to toot out some Christmas songs in December, but with a six-year-old and at that time, a one-year-old, almost, they’re grabbing at the flute and all of that.’ So, not like a real, true practice in December, by any means, but entertaining, nonetheless.” 

Ryan Strid, the band director for the Devils Lake Elks Community Band, understood the intimidation well. Sight-reading isn’t easy, and band directors must tackle their fair share of obstacles to conquer such a task. 

Nevertheless, Strid saw the concert as an opportunity for community members to join the performance and have fun doing so with a tightly knit group. 

“Very proud,” Strid said. “It’s definitely not something that people are comfortable with, even though a lot of band directors try to train their students to be able to sight-read. It’s a tricky thing to do, and it’s very nerve-racking, but it helps when you have a group that already knows the song. You’re not exposed and that kind of thing, so this is a really good environment for people to come in and read some new music.” 

The concert was yet another bonding moment for the band, numbering more than 50 strong. For a band that formed during the fall of 1959, the concert acted as another pillar of strength to the band’s performances year in and year out. 

Not too shabby for what could be seen as a summer finale. And with non-band performers, at that. 

“It’s just so much fun to play with the group, and especially with the music we did today, which is a little lighter, a little easier to pick up, that kind of thing,” Strid said. “It’s just a lot of fun. It’s really easy to get into. It makes me wish we had one more.” 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.