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The Beat Goes On (and on and on)

Q&A with Steve and Janet Tolopka, founders of The Beat Goes On Marching Band


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Drew: How, and when, did The Beat Goes On originally form?

Steve: We started forming in September of 2011. The official start date was Oct. 5. Roots go much deeper. There was another band a bunch of us had played with. We got to the point we thought we could do a better job of some of these things, so we reconstituted, with different leadership, the Get A Life Marching Band.

Drew: How many members comprise it?

Steve: As with so many things about the band, it depends. If you look at our mailing list, we have about 250 people on the mailing list at this point. There’s nothing like that many people that are regular band members…probably 100, 120 regular band members. If you look at a typical event, we’ll put anywhere from 60 to 90 people on the street. It’s a fair number of folks, actually. It’s amazing how invested they are in that. No matter how many events we seem to go put on the calendar, they’ll turn out for it.

Drew: What background do you have in music?by: CONNECTION PHOTO: DREW DAKESSIAN - Steve and Janet Tolopka, who founded the mostly-retirees Beat Goes On.

Steve: We both started played in high school bands and played in college bands, and then there was sort of a hiatus, then in early 1990s had gone to Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade, and one more time around again came down the street, and we saw it and said we wanted to do that. They let us in and played with that group. It’s a couple of months, and then it’s done. About the time you get all revved up and have the juices flowing, it disappears until next year. We started playing more. This band plays all year long.

Janet: I was actually really sad. You have to wait 10 months?!

Drew: What sets The Beat Goes On from other, seemingly similar ensembles?

Steve: It’s all-adult. Portland’s a little spoiled in that it actually has adult marching bands. Most towns don’t have that, and we have more than one. We could probably name half a dozen across the country, and that’s all that we know about. You’ll find lots of concert bands, but marching bands for adults doesn’t happen.

Janet: The level of volunteerism is higher. We have a Board of directors — we could never do it all by ourselves to handle a lot of details. That can go from having water for the band at the parade on a hot day, people who carry flags and banners, a lot of people who pitch in ways that are behind the scenes. Little things that go on all the time. What we like to think of is the band is all the fun things you remember from high school and college, and none of the rigmarole.

Steve: We are none of those things, including polished. Not even just the look, it’s the behavior. What you see is people having a good time. We will have a better time than anyone who comes to the parade.