Heard on the Hill

Rep. Josh Harder’s Fourth of July plans are anything but humdrum

California Democrat is celebrating with a bang (on the drums) with MoBand

California Rep. Josh Harder will perform in the Modesto Band of Stanislaus County’s annual Fourth of July celebration Wednesday. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call file photo).

While many of you brush off your grill grates ahead of Thursday’s Fourth of July celebrations, Rep. Josh Harder will be dusting off the ol’ snare drum. It’s been fifteen years since the freshman Democrat from California played percussion in high school, and he has no problem admitting his skills might need a little fine-tuning.

“I’m a little rusty,” Harder laughed, when reached by phone Wednesday.

But a little rust won’t keep this drummer from partaking in the day’s “Patriotic Spectacular” — an annual Independence Day concert put on by the Modesto Band of Stanislaus County, or, as the locals call it, MoBand.

MoBand, made up of one hundred and thirty musicians ranging from ages 14 to 100 sounding trumpets, saxophones and beating drums, is “one of the oldest, continuously performing bands in the United States,” according to its website. Harder, who was once the “head of the percussion ensemble” back in the day is helping the group celebrate its 100th anniversary.

“It’s kind of amazing. … You’ll look around, and you’ll have folks who’ve had instruments that were in the Vietnam War,” he said of his band members.

The Modesto Band of Stanislaus County, or "MoBand", is one of the oldest, continuously performing bands in the United States.
The Modesto Band of Stanislaus County, or “MoBand,” is one of the oldest, continuously performing bands in the United States. (Photo courtesy Harder’s mother, Linda Harder)

But of the thousands of residents who will gather in Modesto’s Graceada Park with lawn chairs, picnic blankets and their best red-white-and-blue to watch the band play classics like the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the proudest of all will be Harder’s mom (and live music enthusiast), Linda.

“I love watching him play … like most mothers,” she told me enthusiastically — while assuring me that the full drum set in “Joshua’s” bedroom as a kid didn’t bother her at all. “I actually love live music,” she said.

And while the percussionist-turned-politician is onstage reconnecting with bandmates and a pastime that proves to be timeless, he says the best part will be putting politics aside, if only for an evening, and just “hanging out.”

“The beauty of MoBand is making music approachable,” he said.

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