If you're in Helena on a Thursday night, you might hear music and a roar of applause. The State Capital Band is in its 120th consecutive year of playing for the Helena area. The band plays in Memorial Park at 8 pm on Thursday nights - weather permitting.
Montana's history's intertwined with music. The band's entire history's explained to those interested in the backstory of arguably the longest continual community bands in the United States in the booklet, "Stars & Stripes Forever: The Centennial Origins of Helena's State Capital Band," created by band members in 2002.
The band was initially named The Montana State Band, created in 1902, and played at the state's first state fair in October 1903. The band raised money for uniforms, instruments, and their music library that still exists today. The name changed to State Capital Band in 1905 and could be found in the city directory.
The State Capital Band sets up in the band shell in Memorial Park on concert nights. The original building of the bandshell started on November 20, 1945, for $12,500. It was later renovated in 1982 and is repainted every 15 years by local artists.
State Capital Band offered Geoffrey Wyatt Design to create posters promoting the band from 1988 to 1995. He came up with the slogan that is still often used, "Concerts in the Park—A Helena SummerTime Tradition Since 1902."
The band plays every Thursday at 8 pm in Memorial Park. As you wander to find the perfect spot on the lawn, small silver boxes with programs will be located in the crowd. At the end of each concert, attendees are encouraged to write their favorite song played from the show and place it in the big silver boxes. The votes are counted, and the band will play the favorites from previous shows making up the last concert.
At the end of each concert, one of the band members, Ron Sager, sings the state song encouraging the crowd to sing and clap along. These are family-friendly events to listen to live music and enjoy the outdoors. As a community band, anyone who knows how to play an instrument is welcome to join the ensemble.
After 120 years of playing, the State Capital Band continues on strong, marching to their coveted marches. The band only plays for a few weeks before disbanding until next summer. Stop by Memorial Park on Thursdays to enjoy a piece of our living history!