River Valley Band to Honor Women Composers and the LeDuc Sisters

A couple years ago, the Board of Directors of the River Valley Band were doing some visioning about the future and asked themselves, “Wouldn’t it be great to commission a composer to create something especially for the band?” Other questions like ““Who would compose the piece?” and “What would the theme of the piece be?” naturally followed. Early on, the idea of a concert programmed entirely with compositions by women gave the band some direction. In the meantime, after more work and discussions, the Board found early success when they met Erica Svanoe, the Director of Bands at Augsburg University in Minneapolis. Ms Svanoe’s portfolio of previous compositions was impressive and she quickly agreed to work with the Band. At an introductory meeting with her, the Board shared the history of Hastings to give her some background. After her own further study with Heide Langenfeld of the Pioneer Room at Hastings city hall, she was struck by the idea of a concert theme linking the story of Hastings own LeDuc sisters Florence and Alice, who had a needlework cottage craft business back in the late 1800s here in Hastings, to her composition. This linkage of the composition with the sisters brought the theme to the forefront and to which the Band quickly agreed. In other words, a concert theme to honor not only the ground breaking work of the LeDuc sisters but also to honor women composers generally will become a reality at the Band’s Tuesday May 10th concert.

Perhaps you’ve visited the LeDuc Mansion here in Hastings, that stately Gothic mansion on Vermillion Street, the home of General LeDuc, a Minnesota pioneer of civil war fame. The mansion today is managed by the Dakota County Historical Society (DCHS). Gen. LeDuc raised his family there including his daughters Florence, Alice and Mary. In fact, as the General’s business fortunes faded in the 1880s, the sisters became the breadwinners of the family by turning their hobby of embroidery creations, doilies, etc, into a cottage industry. They sold not only their needlework but also marketed their patterns as well and created a business that extended all the way to the eastern US.

That early vision of Board will be fulfilled when the River Valley Band presents their next concert on Tuesday evening May 10th entitled “Honoring Women Composers”. This concert will feature the premier of composer Erika Svanoe’s piece that she has entitled “Florence and Alice” within a program of other compositions by women composers. According to Allen Saunders, President of the Board, “The Band is thrilled beyond measure to be able to premier this wonderful work for concert band to the Hastings community. It isn’t often that a community band has an honor like this, especially as the piece is dedicated to the memory of these pioneer women.” The musical Director of the Band, Mr. Thomas Maeck, searched the concert band literature for women composers and has created an interesting program that will display the range and quality of these women composers, including even compositions by other local women composers Shelly Hanson and Carol Barnett. At the concert, needlework artifacts and visuals provided by DCHS and the Hastings Pioneer Room will be on display to help you understand the beauty of the sister’s handiwork and the scope of their business.

Mark your calendars for 7pm on Tuesday May 10th when the River Valley Band will present a concert entitled “Honoring Women Composers” at the Hastings Middle School auditorium. This concert will include the premier of Ms Erika Svanoe’s composition commissioned by the Band entitled “Florence and Alice” as well as works by other women composers. This program honors not only the works of selected women composers but also the lives of Hastings own LeDuc sisters, Florence and Alice, their embroidery work and their business. This will be a free concert at which the Band will accept offerings of food for Hastings Family Service. Your donation to support the band will be welcomed also. The Band gratefully acknowledges support from the Ruth and George Doffing Charitable Foundation and the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council.

The River Valley Band invites you to consider becoming a member of the band also. Players at all skill levels are needed. Rehearsals are on Tuesdays at 6:45pm at the Hastings Middle School Band room.

The final concert of the season for the Band will be on the evening of June 21st at the Levee Pavilion.

May 4, 2022