Band History: Week 8, Gladys Delano

Long time band member Gladys Delano and her beloved clarinet section were featured at our July 29th concert.

Week 8, July 29, 2015
Written by Ruth Bures, Read by Dan Barr

This week we will present the history of some clarinet players that covers more than a decade. We’ll start with Gladys Delano, tonight’s concert honoree, who played in the Winona Municipal Band for 66 years under three of its directors. Playing was truly a passion for her.

Gladys grew up in a musical home, starting on piano at age 4. In eighth grade she took up the clarinet and by the time she was a junior, her High School band director, Harold Edstrom encouraged her to join the municipal band. She remembered that there was only one uniform left for her, and it was way too big. “I was a skinny little thing then, and the pants had to be hemmed up a whole foot and belted around the waist!”

After high school, Gladys studied music at Winona Teacher’s College. Since most of the men were away fighting the war, she started the school’s first all female swing band and named it “Ten Pretty Girls” “because that’s what they were!”

With her teaching degree, she went Dodge Center and Owatonna where she was music coordinator of elementary schools. After she married Danvil Delano, she returned to Winona where she taught elementary band until she retired.

Gladys Delano in 2004.
Gladys Delano in 2004.

Soon Gladys and Danvil had 3 children, David, Susan, and John, all of whom became involved in music. David played trumpet and he, along with his friend, Nick Edstrom, were featured on the band folios Hal Leonard distributed in the 1950’s. John also played trumpet and Susan became a fine flute player but very early excelled at twirling the baton. We heard the story of her getting stuck in the tar during the Lewiston parade and being rescued by Harold. She won twirling awards and was featured in Who’s Who in Baton for many years!

Gladys brought her family along when the band played at the County Fair. Son David remembers the time they asked for a volunteer for an animal trick and the next thing he knew, there was Gladys being lifted up in an elephant’s trunk!

Teaching music was another of Gladys’ passions. She often said how very important it is for children to learn to play instruments at an early age. “You want to make them love it! The main thing I enjoy is so many of them stick with it.” She was really proud of former students who eventually joined her in the Municipal Band. One of them, Ann Wenzel, stated,  “It was always very neat that I got to play with and know Gladys Delano, my very first clarinet teacher. She was a great teacher and gave me the confidence to continue in music after high school.

Gladys admonished aspiring clarinet students to wait for their first lesson before putting their instruments together. It can be a tricky process. On one first lesson, a student opened the case and Gladys saw just the black wooden tubes. “Where are the keys?” she asked. The student held up a plastic bag of them and said, “It looked like it would be easier to play without these!”

Gladys never missed a summer playing in the band. Her family would plan vacations between Wednesday concerts. Gladys loved marching in parades and said she didn’t mind the heat or the rain. She remembered a trip to the Minnesota State Fair when it poured rain and Ev Edstrom had his band pants rolled up to his knees. In the Steamboat Days parades, flutes and clarinets occupied the last rows. Gladys always marched on the left side, so she could see her family members.

Frank and Ruth Bures joined the clarinet section in 1979. Frank had already played his clarinet around Winona, but Ruth’s skills were unknown. A little rusty, she was somewhat intimidated by the challenging music, but thought she could keep up. It didn’t do much for her confidence when she overheard the director inquire of another clarinetist “can she handle the part?”

Ruth was expecting their youngest son at the end of that summer, and had to miss the last concert when little Joey made his appearance Wednesday morning. As she listened to the concert over the radio she heard Dick Lindner dedicate the piece “Satin Doll” to her, since she would be able to wear nice dresses again!

Ruth sat next to Gladys for at least 27 years, sharing fingering tips, stories and friendship. Frank occupied the first chair and performed yearly solos with the band. Before playing, he usually took the opportunity to say a nice word or two about the director, although he knew Dr. Lindner didn’t encourage it. Frank emphatically refused to march in the parades, saying, “I marched enough for a lifetime through 13 years of high school, college and the army!”

Never a part of the Shorty’s gang (Frank said he needed his wits about him to play), they began a tradition of going to Rocco’s for pizza and beverages following the concert. Starting with one other couple, the crowd grew through the 1980s and 1990’s to almost fill the restaurant. It seemed the divided up bill always amounted to around $7 per person, but on particularly hot days, it was $7.50.

Their shared experience in band has been very rewarding and they fully agree with Gladys: “Music is the greatest thing! Everything has music!”

Next week, at our alumni recognition concert, we hope to have more stories from band members past and present.

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