Contributed by Camille C. Calderaro, MLA, ASLA, Fireflies Play Environments, Inc.
The music trail idea was a vision by former Buffalo Rotary Club President Dr.Warren Stoltmam, who served as President from July 2013 through June 2014. Dr. Stoltman’s dream of creating a music trail along Buffalo Lake, has resulted in more music and community engagement for citizens of the City of Buffalo.
Dr. Stoltman researched outdoor musical instruments. During his research, he discovered that the Maple Grove Rotary Club added musical instruments to a common space near its public library.
Dr. Stoltman was impressed with their installation, but he knew things would have to be done differently in Buffalo. He stated, “In Maple Grove all the instruments are grouped together.” A key design goal was to make sure that children or adults could connect through eye contact while playing the instruments, according to Camille Calderaro, Fireflies Play Environments, Inc.
As the project moved forward, Dr. Stoltman and designer Calderaro considered installing the instruments on the docks to play with the idea of sound 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 Sturges 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 than expected. The project not only brought the community together but fundraising efforts were highly successful connecting people in spontaneous creative play.
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 came 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 enough money to buy nine instruments for installation on the walking path for a total of $35,000, the club exceeded the expectation in half a years’ time. 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 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 made of metal, are weather-resistant, and are sturdy enough to last through many Colorado or Minnesota winters.
Dr. Stoltman commented “Kids have put stones in some of the instruments, but the city of Buffalo just picks them up. For the two years they have been installed, there have really been no problems.”
Dr. Stoltman, an eye doctor in Buffalo, told about 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, “He wants to go play the instruments and has to 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.