Celebrating 61 years!

History

“Developing Youth Through Music”

The Saskatoon Lions Band began as an idea first conceived in 1952 by members of the only Lions Club in the city at that time. There was no band program in the school system or in the community for youth. In 1953, a vote was taken and Lion President Harold Dalgleish and Band Chairman Lion Lorne Raynor began the process to provide young people from 9-19 years with an opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument and provide the city with a junior band to play for civic and community functions. Many Lions assisted over the years such as Band Chairmen Weldon Staynor, Clyde Bourassa, Jeff Tydeman, and Harold Mitchelmore. The Lions Clubs are still involved and help to support the Band.

The school board, under Dr. Gathercole was also very supportive. They provided practise and storage facilities.The Band began rehearsals at City Park Collegiate and stayed for 10 years. Later the Lions Band moved to Tech and over the years utilized Victoria, King Edward, Wilson, Mount Royal, Howard Coad, CNIB, John Lake, Nutana, and by now have practice marched in almost every school, hall, Prairieland Exhibition facility, street, field and arena in the city. Dr. Gathercole was also instrumental in the arranging of recruitment for the Concert, Stage, Beginner and Marching Bands. Majorettes were added and in later years a Flag Colourgaurd replaced the baton twirlers.

The Lions Club approached Mikel Kalmakoff to be the first Band Director. Mikel began with recruitment and started with private lessons. In 1954, Mikel then packed up his family, took a sabbatical and travelled the states for a year studying band programs all through the United States. During this time, Don Wilson took over the band assisted by Jack Whitehouse and Eddie Mather who were experienced members of the Saskatoon Symphony.

Mikel Kalmakoff was Conductor for 12 strong years. Directors Eddie Mather, Don Wilson, Walter Graham, Peter England, Bob McMitchell, Karen Kowenko-Evjen, Gary Evjen, Robert Whittet, Ann Hill, Doug Gilmore, Nick Todd, David Hugg, Barry Redford, Brennan Risling, Paul Newton, Don Griffiths, Casey Elder-Longstaff, Deanna Hnatiw, Lisa Copland, Al Eggum, Jennifer McAllister and Barry Ursaki all were instructors in the program. Barrie Redford, Director from 1989-1994, introduced the band to a new marching endeavour of Fancy Drill. A choreographed half time show piece played while marching patterns on a football field. The Saskatoon Lions Band again saw many significant events and First Place awards, while maintaining quality Concert Bands (Levels A,B,C), Stageband, Parade and Field Show Band.

The Saskatoon Lions Band was acknowledged by the school system in 1961 by allowing students to receive the first band credit at high school level in Saskatchewan. The school system later added a music program of their own seeing the importance of the development of arts and culture in our youth and still have their program in place in both the elementary and high schools. Many students of the Lions Band Program became music teachers or members of orchestras and symphonies. And others played their instruments just for the joy it gave others and themselves.

The first Saskatoon Lions Band Concert was held at Third Avenue United Church at Christmas time in 1955. For the next 45 years the band would play at the annual concert at Third Avenue United Church. Many performances, competitions and events would follow. The Lions Band have performed at school openings, the New City Hall and Post Office openings, United Appeal Drives, Travellers and Children’s Day Parades, and International Band Festivals. They played for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second when she attended the opening of the QE Power Plant and also the renaming of the Royal University Hospital. The majorettes saw Prince Phillip off at the CN Station where he gave them the thumbs up and motioned for them to twirl. Significant twirlers in this group were Wendy Wood, Donna MacLeod, Linda Winslow, and Kim Taylor.

The Band were also proud recipients of the Government of Saskatchewan Trophy which they won for Best All Around Concert and Marching Band at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, B.C. Saskatoon Lions Band also performed in the Calgary Stampede Parade a number of times, Williston North Dakota Band Day, and the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, B.C.

In 1964, the Lions International Convention invited the Saskatoon Lions Band to Toronto where they competed against 54 bands and won the highest mark among all of the Canadian Bands. They performed at Expo 67 in Montreal and they were sponsored again to attend the Lions International Convention as performing guests in Hawaii in 1976. There have been many significant events. They won various First and Second Place medals and awards in the 1990′s travelling nationally and internationally to the midwest USA to the Traverse City Cherry Festival both as a concert and marching band. In 1995 they marched in the Grey Cup Parade in Regina, Saskatchewan and were part of a massed band performance at half time. In 1996, the Lions Band travelled to Calgary to attend the World Marching Band Championships and won a bronze medal in the Junior Field Show Category. They returned in 2000 to the World’s ,marching with North Battleford’s Blue Thunder and won silver in the same category. In 1999 and 2000, Lions Band drummers had the opportunity to perform with Shania Twain in concert.

Over the years Saskatoon Lions Band has held various camps and clinics but the favourite was always at Camp Easter Seal at Little Manitou Lake near Watrous. Many good times were shared and an incredible amount of learning took place in music and marching. It was also where the students could get to know each other and work together as a group which was an important asset later for the trips.

As the Saskatoon Lions Band marches towards it’s fiftieth anniversary, it acknowledges those Lions Members whose idea grew into a wonderful opportunity for our youth to learn musicianship, friendship, responsibility, leadership, self discipline and have the opportunity to travel. The Band is thankful for the contributions of it’s many directors, assistants, and of course parent and community volunteers. Lions Band recognizes the support given by the various Saskatoon Lions Clubs, by City of Saskatoon grants, The Saskatoon Foundation, Youth Granting for Youth, The Saskatchewan Band Association, and the School Boards of Saskatoon, along with various businesses who provided help with much needed facilities, supplies and uniforms.

What a thrill for the band’s first Drum Major Glen Cole to lead the band down the parade route! Hundreds of students have taken part in this program over the years as they performed at the many civic and charitable events, festivals and competitions. With the support of our Lions clubs, sponsors, and volunteers again a new Drum Major will signal “Band to the Ready!” and The Saskatoon Lions Band marches on…..