SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Chris Hill served as bandmaster of the Sioux Falls Municipal Band for 24 years, and on Sunday the band held his farewell concert with Hill front and center.
“The band and the audience honestly feed off each other, there’s a mutual love that occurs between the band and the audience,” Hill said.
“Chris has been steadfast,” said Peter Folliard, dean of Augustana University’s School of Music. “He’s been kind, he’s been thoughtful about the development of the band.”
“He’s been a really great leader and has taught me a lot about being a professional musician,” Shannon Abels of Sioux Falls said.
Abels plays flute in the Sioux Falls Municipal Band. She has high praise for Hill.
“He might be one of the nicest guys you’ve ever met, and he just, he really understands music and what that means to people and to the audiences,” Abels said.
Folliard echoes that.
“One of the kindest, warmest and constant people that you’ll ever see,” Folliard said. “He is, I don’t think he’s missed a performance in 24 years, except for when his mother passed away. That type of dedication and selflessness is just irreplaceable.”
“We’re going to miss his personality and his leadership, but he’s laid a lot of good foundation for us to continue so it’ll be different, but we will move forward,” Abels said.
So will the 62-year-old Hill; he’ll press on in his roles with symphonies and in education.
“My full-time job is playing principal clarinet with the South Dakota Symphony,” Hill said. “I play in the Sioux City Symphony and teach part-time at Augustana University.”
Abels brings up the band’s recent survival.
“Instrumental in actually saving the band a few years ago when we were faced with possibly being canceled,” Abels said.
Dan Santella: Do you think it was his public advocacy for the band that really saved it?
“His advocacy and the history of the band and, of course, the community itself,” Abels said.
The City’s proposed budget for 2021 dropped the band from the Parks & Recreation department’s budget. But some money was restored. Today, the band is jointly managed by the Washington Pavilion and Augustana University.
“You can see the Municipal Band play at Terrace Park every Sunday from June through July at 8 p.m., but typically we have one other concert that we do during the week, usually at a retirement home or also civic events,” Folliard said. “Things like Memorial Day we were at the Alliance, Flag Day we’ll be performing again at a local retirement home, so we’re always bringing music to the community.”
“We support our military veterans,” Hill said. “We have performances around the city for those who are retired and can’t get out to concerts anywhere.”
Music connects people, whether you’re conducting, listening or performing.
“Both the band and the audience are friends, and I’m going to miss them, and they mean a lot to me,” Hill said.
“Chris’s impact is just, it’s monumental,” Folliard said. “But measured in 24 years of great relationships, great music-making and community-building.”
“Being the bandmaster of the Sioux Falls Municipal Band has been one of the greatest honors of my entire life,” Hill said. “This is something that you can only, most people can only dream of.”