The Russ-Band performs their Americana music every year at the Dixie during the Louisiana Peach Festival. This year’s concert will take place Saturday, June 25 at 2 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Like all community bands, the Russ-Town Band plays for the entertainment and benefit of the community, and they hope to see you at the Dixie on Saturday.
The history of the Russ-Town Band is a colorful one that began in 1994. That summer, a group of local friends with a passion for music got together and recognized the need for a professional quality musical ensemble in Ruston. The group included Lawrence Gibbs, who is the Associate Director of Bands at Louisiana Tech, his wife, and Anne and Charlie Gaushell, who were members of the LSU band in the 1950’s.
The friends decided to found the Russ-Town Band, and as Gibbs explained, their timing was perfect: “At that point, there had been a nationwide revival of the community band.”
In addition to filling a need in Ruston, the Band was also formed to satisfy the members’ nostalgia for the days when they played in their respective high school and college bands.
Gibbs said, “We wanted to have a group of musicians that really missed playing, and we felt Ruston needed a performing group to play local concerts that would rally the townspeople.”
As the friends began coordinating the band, they asked the late Oscar Barnes Jr. to serve as conductor. At the time, Barnes was retired from directing the Ruston High School band. During his career, Barnes had also served briefly as Director of Bands at Winnsboro High School and as Associate Director of Bands at LSU before beginning his tenure at Ruston High School in the 1950’s.
Barnes graciously agreed to conduct the Russ-Town Band and did so for nearly ten years until his health forced him to hand the baton to Gibbs, who admits he is still in awe at the success of the band. He explained, “I am constantly amazed by the reception of the town and the surrounding areas and by the number of musicians interested in playing.”
Consisting of around fifty area professional and semi-professional musicians, the band has become a prominent fixture in Ruston’s music scene. The band was formed by invitation only, and the members come from all walks of life and serve on a strictly volunteer basis.
During their first few years, the band typically played concerts at Ruston’s Railroad Park. Since 1996, however, they have been playing concerts at the Dixie Center for Arts. Gibbs said, “The Dixie has kind of become our home, so we’re excited to be playing there again.” According to Dixie President, Lynne Gnemi, the feeling is mutual. “The contribution to the cultural and musical environment made by the Russ-Town Band is enormous for our city,” she said.
The acoustics of the Dixie are incredible. The audience gets a great sound, and there is not a bad seat. So take a break from the heat and enjoy the “feel-good” music of the Russ-Town Band. We’re looking forward to a great concert.