Red Wing, Minnesota is one of few places in the United States where you can train to repair and care for brass band instruments.
We learned this on a short trip beyond Stearns County to admire the vibrant autumn leaves along US Route 61. The scenic drive borders the Mississippi River and is enjoyed by many Minnesotans at this time of year. We stopped for the night at the historic St James Hotel in downtown Red Wing.
Built in 1875, the old brick hotel offers cozy rooms and Victorian decor, and is located a short walk or drive away from many local attractions.
Red Wing is a charming river town of medium size, with a cafe dedicated to pie, museums, antique and thrift stores, and the Red Wing campus, where you can become a certified brass band instrument technician in two full-time semesters.
One of 11 students in the latest intake is Grace, who moved to Red Wing from Pennsylvania to attend the course after gaining her undergraduate engineering degree. Grace wanted a profession aligned to her musical interests and is learning how to take care of trombones, trumpets, tubas, bugles, and other band instruments.
The only other places to formally learn this craft are in Iowa and Elkhorn, Wisconsin.
Grace says the Midwest has a strong history in the manufacture and playing of brass band instruments, and retains the skills to look after them, training up new technicians each year.
“They’re in short supply across the country.”
The United States Marine Corps and US Navy send their band instrument repair techs to the school.
When not studying, Grace works at the St James Hotel’s Scarlet Kitchen & Bar.
We welcomed her suggestions for an eclectic evening feast: coffee and hot chocolate, Amy's Famous Pretzel Bread with garlic butter and house beer cheese, cinnamon swirl cheesecake, plus piquant cinnamon cocktails served in copper tankards and decorated with bouji cinnamon sticks.
Later, there was nothing Victorian about the soft mattresses.
We fell asleep to the sound of train whistles and rolling wheels.
They echoed across the river, up Red Wing’s main street, and into our dreams.