The idea of creating a musical trail was a vision of former Buffalo Rotary Club President (2013-2014) Dr. Warren Stoltman. Dr. Stoltman's dream not only became a reality, but it has resulted in more music and community engagement for citizens of the City of Buffalo.
In his early research, Dr. Stoltman discovered that the Maple Grove Rotary Club added musical instruments to a common space near its public library. Dr. Stoltmanwas impressed with their installation, but knew he wanted to change the typology for Buffalo. He stated, "In Maple Grove all the instruments are grouped together." A key design goal for Buffalo was to engage people as they moved along a linear path. Another goal was to make sure that children or adults could connect through eye contact while playing the instruments, according to Camille Calderaro, the space designer from Fireflies Play Environments, Inc.
As the project moved forward, Dr. Stoltman and Calderaro considered installing the instruments on the docks with the idea of sound carrying over the waters of Buffalo Lake. Dr. Stoltman also envisioned large percussive instruments installed along the walking path on the edge of Buffalo Lake and through Struges Park.That vision became a reality. The Sturges Park lakefront trail features tuned drums, huge xylophones, Pagoda Bells, a large wind chime, and a playground Weenotes ensemble.
With the help of Calderaro, all the instruments were grouped so they can be played by individuals or groups walking along the trail.
As Calderaro and Dr. Stoltman walked the lakefront trail to review final placement of the instruments, the musical instruments seemed to indicate where they wanted to be sited. The plan changed slightly but the end results was even better then expected. The project brought the community together musically, and also through the highly successful fundraising effort.
The project was implemented by the Buffalo Rotary Club with the help of many people and organizations in Buffalo, MN, including the City of Buffalo, Parks and Recreation, the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, and many Buffalo residents. It seemed that the whole community contributed to the project, as donations from the Buffalo Community Orchestra, Buffalo Hospital, Elim Care, and numerous other corporate sponsors poured in once word spread in the community about the music trail.
The Buffalo Rotary Club fundraising included grants through the Central Minnesota Arts Board and Rotary's Matching Grant Program. Although the original plan was to raise $35,000 to buy nine instruments for installation on the walking path, the club exceeded the expectation in approximately six months. The fundraising was so successful that they were able to buy and install 11 instruments. With so many instruments, the proposed installation area was expanded to the Downtown Buffalo Commons, where a sculptural Swirl and large bass tone Yantzee xylophone are installed.
Response to the addition of musical instruments to Sturges Park and the walking trail has been very positive. Residents who live near the park have enjoyed the spontaneous music, and there do not seem to have been any issues with vandalism. Some individuals think it is strange to have musical instruments outside, especially in Minnesota, but these instruments are made for the outdoors. The instruments were specifically selected knowing that they are sturdy enough to last through many Minnesota winters.
Dr. Stoltman, an eye doctor in Buffalo, told the story of a patient whose care attendant could not persuade him to get the exercise he needed. But ever since the installation of the musical instruments in the park, "It hasn't been a chore," he said, "I want to go play the instruments and walk in order to play them." In a sense, the music of the trail is therapy for him.
Music therapy is just one of the functions of the Music Trail. The instruments are designed so they can be played by adults or children, with or without any musical training. They can be played by serious musicians, or just for fun. But the instruments are also quite beautiful, adding to the scenic view of the lake seen from almost anywhere nearby. Mixed in among the flower gardens planted and maintained by area organizations, and with a backdrop of the fountain in Buffalo Lake, the well-designed instruments are almost like another art installation in Buffalo. They bring a sophisticated feeling to the park, as though it were a musical sculpture garden.
"I was amazed and mesmerized. Here was this instrument overlooking the lake. There was something powerful in looking over the water, feeling the breeze, and enjoying the sounds from these instruments. It touched a place inside my spirituality."-Camille C. Calderaro, MLA, ASLA, Fireflies Play Environments, Inc.