Staying gold: Brass quintet spends ‘golden years’ spreading joy with music

Local musician Gene Okerlund fondly remembers when his father gave him his first trumpet 68 years ago.

Even though the horn was previously owned and admittedly “a little clunky,” Okerlund fell in love with it right away. Music has been his passion since.

Over the years Okerlund has played in musical groups of all sizes, surrounding himself with other musicians who love to perform and entertain others — like the Dakota Brass Quintet.

The Dakota Brass Quintet (formerly the Olivet Brass Quintet) is a group of brass musicians spending their “golden years” spreading joy with music throughout the Metro free of charge.

This Sunday, May 14, the Dakota Brass Quintet presents a Mother’s Day brass and organ recital at 4 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in Fargo. The program features music from West Side Story, Porgy and Bess, and other lively organ and brass works.

Vocalist Deb Wald and First Lutheran organist Michael Olson join the quintet for an overall toe-tapping, sing-along performance.

Although admission is free, a freewill offering will be taken at the recital to help Lutheran World Relief provide agricultural materials to communities in Bihar, India, one of the poorest areas in the world.

The Dakota Brass Quintet. Left to right: Rod Capistran, Peter Schiefelbein, Brian Tessmann, Gene Okerlund, Greg Post.

Members of the current quintet include Rod Capistran (trombone), Gene Okerlund (trumpet), Greg Post (trumpet), Peter Schiefelbein (French horn) and Brian Tessmann (tuba).

The musicians represent over 300 combined years playing instruments and 100 combined years performing together. Four members are enjoying retirement; Capistran is the only “poor soul” still in the workforce, Okerlund joked.

Okerlund is the only musician from the original quintet that formed in 1984 at Olivet Lutheran Church.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Dakota Brass Quintet’s mission was to provide religious brass music to smaller congregations in the community with little or no access to live instrumentalists.

Gene Okerlund (in the red) and the rest of the Dakota Brass Quintet rehearse at First Lutheran Church.

As the quintet changed titles and musicians over the years, it expanded to performing jazz concerts in hospice care facilities, assisted living homes and art spaces in the community. Their main goal to this day is to bring people together to enjoy fun, upbeat music of all genres.

“Music pulls things out of you that you don’t want to leave dormant all your life, because if that stays dormant, you’re not living life to the fullest,” Okerlund said. “You have to have passion, and a lot of that passion comes through the arts.”

Okerlund is also presently a member of the Master Chorale, Fargo Theatre Big Band, Fargo Theatre Vocal Quintet, Golden Blend and Golden Oldies Ensemble. He’s a former lead trumpet at Concordia College and former member of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony.

Needless to say, the arts are intertwined in almost everything Okerlund does — and neither he nor the other members of the Dakota Brass Quintet plan on putting their horns away any time soon.

“I’ll be playing music as long as I’ve got health and a little enthusiasm to go with it.”

If You Go

What: Mother’s Day Brass and Organ Recital featuring the Dakota Brass Quintet

When: 4 p.m. Sunday, May 14

Where: First Lutheran Church (619 N. Broadway, Fargo)

Cost: Free and open to the public. A freewill offering will be taken to provide agricultural materials to Bihar, India, through Lutheran World Relief.

This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and originally appeared in print on Monday, May 8, 2017.

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