Grand Junction Centennial Band: Music To Your Years

Originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of Spoke+Blossom



Three generations of Arisawa men take the stage together. The grandpa, Toru, plays the bassoon next to his grandson, Kodama. Triston, the dad, pulls out a tenor saxophone and performs next to his younger son, Kaemon, on the alto saxophone. They aren’t the only family group that spends their Thursday evenings making music together, but there’s only one band in the valley where this can happen, and it’s been around since 1976.

You won’t find any violins or cellos in the Grand Junction Centennial Band, and you won’t hear them performing Mozart or Beethoven. Instead, you’ll hear instruments you may be more familiar with, because you probably played one in your own school band. When you attend one of their concerts, you’ll hear music ranging from Sousa Marches to modern film scores and even pop music.

The Centennial Band is one of the largest community concert bands in the state. Unlike the symphony, which carries a massive overhead and charges ticket prices accordingly, Centennial Band performances will put you out nothing for tickets, thanks to donations, grants and entirely volunteer membership and management. This means maximum accessibility for the entire community.

Members of the band congregate from all over the Western Slope, committing their time to come together, practice and perform as part of the Centennial Band for the love of performing music, the camaraderie among the band members and the fun they have together.

“Our mission is simple: to be a positive contributor to the musical environment of our community and provide continuing education and support of the musical arts in our community. The band reaffirms the great American tradition of the hometown community concert band role in our musical culture,” says Daphne Wright, president of the band. “There are far more community members who have experienced first-hand playing in a band, whether in middle school or high school, or even college, than have played in any other type of ensemble. We want to keep that tradition alive in our community and reap the benefits of playing music our entire lives.”

In recent years, the band has become more prominent in the community and expanded its appeal by bringing in two new musical directors and drawing more youthful membership and repertoire into the ensemble.

“I’ve been playing in various groups since 1976. While there are more and more options for playing, the Centennial Band music is more popular than some others. In addition, this group helps me try to improve my playing and keeps my chops in good shape. This group is like a family,” says Jack Nisley, a horn player in the band. “With a new website and our conductors trying to make the public more aware of the band, we have a good following from the community. The band provides concerts with music that is fun for all ages. While marches are included, many new movie themes and various other music is played to please the audience as well.”

The Centennial Band performs year-round, including a series of four or five free concerts incity parks over the summer season, in addition to multiple stage performances in fall, winter and spring. The concerts are programmed with something for everyone and make for a memorable evening for the entire family, without breaking the bank.

“Even though we run on a lean budget, we have committed to offering music scholarship seach year to help newly-graduated seniors with college expenses. Last year, we gave out three scholarships to deserving students and hope to do more each year,” says Wright. “We count on the open hearts of our community to help make these scholarships happen.”

The band is non-audition and always open to community members who would like to play. To learn more about the band visit their website at

Elisa JansonMusic