Super Senior: Gary Aubin

Published: Jul. 20, 2023 at 5:41 PM EDT
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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s a muggy Monday in Saint Johnsbury and Gary Aubin is ready to conduct the town band.

The band has represented the sounds of summer for a very long time.

“It’s the third oldest band in the country continuously operating, and I like to say we’re the oldest amateur town band in the country,” Aubin said.

The year was 1830. Andrew Jackson was president, the country’s first railroad station opened up in Baltimore, and New York City’s population was hovering at 200,000.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Why do you think the band has survived for so long?

Gary Aubin: Just a lot of work, for one.

Aubin has been the band leader for over four decades. On this night, they’re not at the town’s bandstand but a few blocks away at the St. Johnsbury History and Heritage Center.

Patriotic songs echo through the neighborhood. Before radio and movies, this was the summer entertainment for Vermonters.

“At one time, there were huge numbers of bands, even towns like North Danville, for a couple of years, had its own band, and that’s just a few houses,” Aubin said.

He should know. His research has turned into a recently published book, “History of Town Bands In Vermont.” In it, he traces the first band in the Green Mountains back to 1805 in Bennington County. “The instruments weren’t even invented yet -- instruments we use now,” he said. Aubin speculates it was mostly drum and bugles, and until the 1940′s -- all men.

Today’s band is varied in age and instruments, and women make up half the ensemble.

Roseann Drew Leute came to the concert with a pad and pencil in hand, sketching the players as she listened. “It’s really nice, it’s nice. It’s also free,” she said.

At the end of the concert, there’s a tradition -- the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The song officially became our national anthem in 1931, a century after this St. Jay group was formed.

History in the making in the Northeast Kingdom as the band plays on.