Musicians Richard Baldinelli and Dr. Joan Madden exude joy whether playing their trumpets in the 53rd Street Brass Quintet, looking forward or reminiscing. The two musicians capture the delight of a child’s birthday party.
One glitch: Their quintet of two trumpets, French horn, trombone and tuba will lose the French horn and the trombone very soon. But the enthusiasm of these two founders bodes well for a happy outcome.
Two other bands in which they play – Roseville Community Band and the Minneapolis Police Band – are also looking for musicians.
“In a quintet, there’s no backup when there are only five musicians,” said Madden. “We don’t need to have a professional, just someone who would like to try and have a commitment.”
There’s no end to what the bands bring to the community.
“It’s for the fun of it wherever we are,” Baldinelli said. “We play a variety of music: ‘We Three Kings Like to Swing’ as well as traditional carols at Christmas, The Muppet Show Theme, Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline,’ as well as Renaissance and Baroque music.” Baldinelli looks to “The Canadian Brass Music” music book series for inspiration.
They have masqueraded as buskers – traditionally, those who entertain for money – without accepting donations. Notably, all of their concerts are free.
Outdoor summer concerts may include performances at Minnehaha Park and Lake Harriet, Como Park, Roseville and more sites. On Thursday nights the musicians play with the Minneapolis Police Band, of which Madden is president. Throughout the year, they bring their music to those in senior living, nursing homes and retirement communities, to churches as well as Mall of America and beyond.
The Police Band practices in the 5th Precinct police station in Minneapolis. And they play an outdoor concert every year for the 5th Precinct Neighborhood Open House.
Both Madden and Baldinelli were steeped in music at a young age. Madden’s grandmother played the piano for silent movies before the turn of the last century. Madden gravitated to the violin at age 10 and later to the recorder.
When her father accepted a sabbatical in the Netherlands, Madden’s mother and four siblings packed up and moved with him. Much to Madden’s delight, the recorder was requisite at her new school in The Hague. Years later, Madden and two other singers in the Minnetonka Choral Society formed a recorder ensemble, The Arden Consort. They added more members and played together for the next 40 years.
When a woman in Madden’s choir put her shiny cornet up for sale at a fundraiser, Madden purchased it. She kept it dusted and on a shelf. Eventually she took her shiny coronet to MacPhail Center for Music in downtown Minneapolis for lessons. A chamber music class ensued and, eventually, the brass quintet that Madden and Baldinelli began.
Madden, who lives in Fulton, began playing the trumpet two years before she retired as Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Health Partners. She expanded her musical reach, marching with her trumpet in the St. Paul Winter Carnival Parade and playing her baritone horn in several annual Tuba Christmas concerts.
Madden was a Timberwolves and Lynx senior dancer for 10 years: “It was exciting and fun, but it’s a lot of work for two minutes in the spotlight.”
In elementary school at St. Bernard’s in St. Paul, Baldinelli took music lessons and, as a sixth-grader, created his school’s first grade-school band. In high school, he continued with music. At the University of St. Thomas, he played in the concert orchestra and earned a bachelor’s degree in music. But he did not see himself as a teacher.
After his father died, Baldinelli decided that a master's degree in business administration would give him the means to help support his mother. He returned to school for the degree. Among the variety of jobs he held were with Schmitt Music, Harmon Glass, Nordic Ware and, lastly, Bio-Tech, which creates serums for research. And he continued to play.
A pivotal shift for him took place after Madden encouraged him to join the Roseville Band. At an outdoor concert, he encountered Mike, a senior at St. Thomas when Baldinelli was a freshman. They had worked with the same inspirational trumpet teacher. Now Mike was on dialysis. Baldinelli recalled that, at the concert, Mike played the song, “Someone to Watch over Me.” The next time that Baldinelli saw him was in the hospital; Mike’s leg had been amputated. The next time, Mike wasn’t there. He had died.
“After that, I retired from business,” Baldinelli said. “I had to enjoy life.”
There was a time when he wondered if he would ever enjoy making music again. While riding his scooter in 2012, a truck driver turned left in front of Baldinelli. “There were tire tracks on your back,” a doctor later told Baldinelli. But the larger issue was the damage to fingers on both of his hands. Those fingers were totally pinned, but it took a year to recover and play the trumpet.
“There would be a big hole in my life without music,” he said. “After the accident, just being in the audience, not playing, ripped me apart.”
But he healed.
He plays in the bands once again and is also an associate conductor. And as he continues to dedicate himself to music, he acknowledges that times have changed. As a teen, he played in the brass quartet when Christmas Eve Mass began at 10 p.m.; Christmas carols followed midnight mass. He would return to the church at 9 a.m. for the first mass on Christmas morning. Now at midnight mass, few parishioners attend. He misses the filled pews. But people continue to reach out to music in different ways, he noted.
Baldinelli and Madden, founders of the 53rd Street Quintet, look forward to welcoming new members to any of the three bands.
For Madden, the best part of playing music is playing with the group: “I would miss that, if we weren’t able to continue because of missing two members of our quintet.”
“We want to bring people together,” said Baldinelli, who lives in northeast Minneapolis. “To that end, we’re looking for people who play for enjoyment – for themselves as well as the audience.”
“Get out the instrument that you haven’t played in a while,” Madden said. “You might be surprised at what happens.”