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Reno Municipal Band marches on to 130-plus years for Artown

The Reno Municipal Band in 1962 (Photo courtesy A.G. McGrannahan / city of Reno)

Dr. A.G. McGrannahan III became involved in the Reno Municipal Band program in 1975, when he joined the faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno.

He was appointed as director of the band in 2010, and he continues to lead it into 2016, more than 130 years since its founding. It is now the third-oldest band in the western U.S.

Though the band had been playing for a dozen decades when he took over, McGrannahan said nobody looked up the band's history until he came in.

"I had to go into archival records to find these things out," he said.

He went to the city of Reno library and put together the band's booklet, which is handed out to people attending performances with the program inside.

The Reno Municipal Band began in 1882, when carpenter and mill worker Walter Hastings organized a group, though dissension caused it to dissolve in 1893.

Hastings put together another band in the following year, and the evolution of the Reno band began. Several iterations came about until the present-day band was formed in 1935.

The band now performs every July for Artown in Wingfield Park. Programs vary from "Sounds of Freedom," a collection of patriotic music for July 3, to "A Disney Celebration," performances of popular Disney movies like Mary Poppins and Frozen.

Program ideas can come from anywhere, according to McGrannahan. He often receives tips from friends and acquaintances, and he looks for family-friendly themes that crowds will appreciate. The program is chosen in March, and practice starts in June.

"There's no committee as a such that does this," he said. "I just take ideas from different people."

Much of the band's popularity can be attributed to its longevity, McGrannahan said. One member, Iris Maytan, joined in 1942 and continues to play with the band today, along with her son.

"The longevity is fantastic," he added.

The Reno Municipal Band is funded solely from donations. Visit RenoCulture.com to learn more.

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