WATCH NOW: Notables jazz band make Ice Cream Days appearance after COVID hiatus | A1


LE MARS, Iowa — Jim Engelbrecht is a retired medical director and one of the top rheumatologists in the state of South Dakota.

But the Rapid City resident will also be happy with an entirely different title.

Engelbrecht is the keyboardist of The Noteables, the jazz band Le Mars Community High School, founded by longtime band manager Joe Brice.

“I graduated from Lycée Le Mars in 1965,” the 75-year-old explained. “Being in Joe’s jazz band was such a wonderful experience for me.”

That’s why Engelbrecht is reuniting with other notable alumni at a special concert at 6 p.m. Thursday at Primebank, 37 First Ave. NW, The March.

The band originally reunited for a performance in 2000 at an all-class reunion. They then reunited 11 more times.

“I thought 2019 would be our last performance,” Engelbrecht said. “But we’re doing it again this year.”

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Indeed, a Les Notables rehearsal was both practice and reunion for now-retired Brice, who taught at the Mars from 1959 to 1974. He then left for a teaching job in suburban Denver, in Colorado.

“When I started teaching at Mars, I was only a few years older than my students,” explains Brice, 85. “Now I play music with kids I taught 50 or even 60 years ago.”

At the time, the Notables achieved a bit of notoriety.

“Initially, we formed the band to compete in jazz competitions,” Brice said. “We became popular enough to start booking gigs to play proms and high school events.”

Because they traveled to gigs in the area, the Noteables became a close-knit team.

“While other teachers would have students for just one year, I had my kids in the group for their entire time in high school,” Brice said. “Many students have stayed in touch with me for decades.”

This included Rebecca Timmins, a singer from the Noteables.

“I actually graduated a year after Joe left Le Mars,” Timmins said. “But Joe taught me when he was here.”

Timmins continued to sing after moving to Minneapolis.

“I always knew that music would be part of my life,” she said. “I thank Joe for giving me the confidence to perform.”

However, Engelbrecht admitted to being a little rusty.

“Literally the last time I was in a band was when I played with the Noteables three years ago,” he admitted. “We are losing the habit of working with other musicians.”

Fortunately, Engelbrecht discovered a high-tech educational tool.

“If I’m in a rush, I’ll just say, ‘Alexa, play ‘Woodchopper’s Ball’ for me,’ or ‘Alexa, play ‘Girl from Ipanema’ for me,'” he said. “So, I’m just going to follow Alexa’s lead.”

As more than 20 Brice alumni gather for a last-minute rehearsal, he can’t help but smile.

“If a high school football team gets together after 50 or 60 years, they’re not going back on the field for another game,” he said. “But my Notables can give a concert years after high school.”

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Henry R. Wright