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Bringing Music to the Streets of St. Louis

Published on 20 May 2020

With stay-at-home orders in place over the past two months to slow the spread of COVID-19 in St. Louis, many area residents found themselves in search of ways to stay entertained and find moments of hope.

With his trumpet in hand, Walter Beckham, admissions representative at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, and his six bandmates, set out on a mission to raise the spirits of St. Louis residents through music.

The seven members of Beckham’s band, the Red and Black Brass Band, are all a part of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America Inc., the world’s oldest and largest secret national fraternal society in music. Each of the individuals in the band come from various backgrounds in education, marketing and carpentry.

The band first went viral on Twitter in April when two of the members, who are roommates, decided to grab their instruments and go out into their neighborhood to play.

“Once we all saw how much joy it brought people, we decided that we’d start going out with the whole band,” Beckham said.

Now, the band hits the streets three to four days a week playing New Orleans brass band style music, marching along in neighborhoods like Old North St. Louis and Tower Grove South. Their set list includes songs like “Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

“The response from area residents has been truly amazing,” Beckham said. “Some people dance and follow along behind us. Some just stare in awe because they are truly shocked when they hear us coming down the street. Some even cry because they are so happy.”

In recent weeks, the band has gained increasing notoriety, with a number of local television, radio and print news outlets featuring their efforts.

“Even though I am fortunate to have had an amazing collegiate experience where my marching band consistently gained national exposure and played for many notable people, the recognition the band is getting is really touching and humbling to me on a more personal level,” Beckham said. “In several neighborhoods, people have called us heroes.”

As the St. Louis area continues to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, the band hopes to continue playing in local neighborhoods and bringing joy to those that hear them. Information on the band and their upcoming appearances can be found via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“We all hope that people find joy and comfort in our music as well as become more conscious of just how healing music can be,” Beckham said.

Photo by: Dave Moore Photography

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