Chapter 1


Richard Franko Goldman writes in his 1957 publication, The Wind Band “that the wind band today is not only a musical phenomenon of greater interest than it was at any previous time in its history , but it also represents an activity of considerable sociological interest in the musical scene, especially in the the United States.” It would appear to hold true today but we have constantly seen change since the very earliest bands and continue to see change. Let’s take a brief look at this history and how it has influenced the present.

There was a considerable number of early bands and band directors who had a strong influence on the early growth of the band. H. W. Schwartz states that a series of concerts was put on in New York and Boston between 1853-1854 by Antoine Julian was like an overture to an Opera which might well be called “The Golden Age of Bands of Music. Born in France in 1812, Julian was a showman, “a prolific creator of novelty in interpreting, conducting and promoting music”. He had the early influence of the French Military bands which had reached a high state of development than bands in other parts of the world and were held in greater esteem

Bands, as {we know them today seemed to have derived their identity from the formation of the 45 piece French National Guard Band of 1789. In 1790 its size was increased to 70 members. Two years later the band was dissolved, but many of its members eventually became the nucleus of the French National Conservatory in 1795.

The American influence: America has been a leading country in the formation of bands, many groups of which antedate the Paris Band of the National Guard by a decade. Josiah Flagg, often known as the first American bandman, was active as early as the 1770's. The Massachusetts Band was formed in 1789 and later became the Green Dragon Band, then the Boston Brigade Band. 

Patrick Gilmores’s role: A protege of Antoine Julian, Patrick Gilmore was acquired in 1859 to lead the band. Gilmore, less than two years after he sat under Julien’s tutelage at the Boston Concerts, took over the leadership of the Salem Brass Band. Gilmore was also a prolific showman and his Salem Bands gained great fame and were very much in demand for a variety of special events.

Gilmore, the business man: Gilmore wasGilmorealso notorious for wanting to make money. Gilmore always kept his eye on that part of his contract which stated “and all the money he could make”. Thus, he was always hustling for business for the Salem Band. He was taking business away from the Boston Bands and, in Hfrustration, Boston musicians attacked members of the Salem Band while they were on parade in Boston. Gilmore “got wind” of the plan and hired some “thugs” to trail his band and intervene at the point the attack was to take place. Business got so bad with the Boston Band that they accepted the old adage: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join em”. Gilmore resigned the Salem Band in 1859 and took over the leadership of the Boston Brigade Band.

Gilmore leads Boston Brigade Band: In October 1861, Gilmore and his entire band enlisted with the Massachusetts 24th Volunteer Regiment. In August 1862 an act of Congress discharged all regimental bands from the service, and the Gilmore Band arrived back in Boston early and were greeted as returning heroes in the eyes of the people of Boston.

The Marine Band and Sousa: When Gilmore died in 1892, his band broke up. Sousa’s New Marine Band became the principals in the story of the independent Concert Band. The title for the new band was chosen in order to capitalize on the fame and prestige Sousa had gained in his twelve years as conductor of the U.S. Marine Band, from 1880-1892. The role the band was to play was as yet to be determined but they initially gave White House concerts and functioned as a ceremonial unit.

Sousa had become the Conductor of the U.S. Marine Band at the age of 26. He had found the band in a demoralized condition. The band was using none of the “modern music” of European composers who were attracting attention all over the world. Sousa bought pieces from European composers and embarked on a regimen of intense rehearsals. His new regimen brought protest within the ranks and threats of seeking an early discharge from the band. There was no such machinery in place to allow this process but Sousa secured new regulations that would allow him to grant discharges. Invoking this process, the membership of the band shrunk to thirty-three members at the end of his first year.

Sousa changes style: The improved performances and the modern music began to attract more people to the White House concerts and the popularity of the Marine Band began to grow. They became a spectacular marching unit, increasing the tempo to the regulatory 120 beats per minute and copying the style of the Gilmore 7th regiment band by placing trombones and tubas in the front ranks, There were other reforms that took place. Sousa discontinued the opera numbers, overtures and marches with subdued music for White House receptions. As the guests filed past the President he moved to the more lively, spirited music.

Marine Band begins touring: Noting the popularity of the touring Gilmore band, Sousa sought permission to tour with the Marine Band and received permission in 1891 for a five week tour, David Blakely, who had scheduled tours for the Gilmore bands was engaged to schedule the tour for the Marine Band. On this first tour he learned about the public taste of music, moving from heavier literature to the more recognizable tunes and marches. A second tour of seven weeks the following Spring extended as far west as San Francisco. On the return trip to Washington D.C. the band performed a concert in Chicago. David Blakely met with Sousa and suggested to him that he could make four times his Marine Corps salary if he would organize and conduct a private touring concert band. Blakely had recently broken up with Gilmore and was looking for a band to manage.

Sousa resigns and forms his own touring band: Sousa resigned from the Marine Corps and the Sousa Touring Concert Band was born. He immediately began auditioning players for his band, conducting allthe auditions himself. As H. W, Schwartz wrote in his fine book, Bands of America, the “spit and polish” tradition of the Marine Band was carried by Sousa into his new band. Each man was required to keep his uniform immaculate, his cap and his shoes shined to a high luster. The first tour with the band met with questionable success. The band was scheduled in every small town and the larger cities and the receipts for the concerts were negligible. Blakely wanted to cancel the tour and Sousa rejected the idea vehemently. The tour continued and attendance and receipts picked up as they got back east.

Sousa’s philosophy: Sousa held true to a philosophy that the band was for entertainment, not for education. The main function of the band was to give the public what they wanted to hear. Sousa adhered to the English style of band instrumentation. Sousa stated in 1930 that English bands had nearly a correct instrumentation.

The repertoire and programming of Sousa followed very closely to the ideals of Gilmore. Most of the early bands found that concert goers did not respond well to transcriptions of the classics. Therefore, they sought out some of the lighter, popular songs of the time. If a “heavier” number was performed it was followed by something lighter and more familiar. Sousa took it a step further by interjecting his own marches. As the fame of the Sousa band and the popularity of his marches spread, the audience came to expect more of the marches on the program.

Sousa initially had difficulty getting his marches published. With his adornment of the title “The March King” and the increasing popularity of his marches, the John Church company began publishing his marches and paying him a handsome royalty.

A new era: The title “Prelude As We Know Them Today” was chosen as the end to the heyday of the traveling professional band about 1925—the last major year of Sousa. It is at about this time that we begin to see a tremendous growth in school music programs and the advent of the band programs as we see them today. We see other professional bands after 1925 but I shall mention just one, a person whose name is identified with great bands but, more importantly, the growth of quality literature for the concert band---this person is Edwin Franko Goldman.

Dr. Goldman received serious musical training. He was a trumpet player with the Metropolitan Opera House and served at times as conductor. He played in bands in the summertime but these bands were largely under rehearsed and not of the greatest quality. He knew that these bands were composed of outstanding musicians and, after considerable thought, decided that an outstanding band could be formed with musicians from the Met, the Philharmonic and other outstanding orchestras. He had an exacting idea as how bands should play, but, his strongest contribution lies unquestionably in the field of band literature. There was clearly a change in the bands status and he saw this clearly. It is appropriate to mention him in relationship to our own growth as we have all profited by the growth in great band literature–much of the early start can be attributed to him.

Your military and professional bands existed primarily for entertainment purposes. As we proceed to our own history in Nebraska we see virtually every small town having a “Town Band”, the small military posts having a post band, industries having “employee” bands, youth bands, church bands, private bands, fraternal bands, police bands, fire bands and any other number of titles. The early participants did not have radios, recordings, movies and other forms of entertainment we have today so they looked for ways to provide for their personal entertainment and/or musical growth.

We will see these parallels as we move to our own history.


Tracing our history: Where does one really start when trying to trace the history of the band movement in Nebraska? It is a well-known fact that bands began to surface in many communities, appearing in the form of community bands, military bands, fraternal bands, groups such as cornet bands and finally an appearance of school bands. There were many reasons for the formation of these bands. One would certainly have to suggest that in many communities it was a social or cultural reason. So many of the communities were somewhat isolated and found pleasure in their music. The earliest references to music were to the “Singing Schools” with no particular emphasis at any point on instrumental music. Much of this music was music they brought with them when they settled in this country and mostly reflected their culture and their religious convictions.

Instrumental Music was non-existent in the Public Schools while Vocal Music was playing a very prominent role. There were many bands in existence but most of them were community bands. Even the smallest community seemed to have a band. There was also the influence of some of the early military bands around the state and nation. However, there was no precedent for music in the public schools.

Edward Birge, in his History of Public School Music in the United States suggests that there are four principal reasons that instrumental music was not introduced as an extra curricular activity until about 1900.

These reasons are: 1. The early prejudice that suggested to study instruments was wicked, continued throughout much of the nineteenth century from the previous century.

2. The absence of authoritative performances of master works until about 1850.

3. Most of the early music supervisors were not instrumentalists but singers.

4. Finally, the attitude of school administrators who had no precedent either in this country or Europe for introducing instrumental work in the schools.

Other prejudices prevented instrumental music from moving into the schools. The main obstacle was the professional musicians who fashioned themselves as the musical leaders in the communities and frowned upon activity in the schools. Much of the early instruction was carried on by these local professionals or anyone in a particular community that had any instrumental experience.

Glen Auble: Another major obstacle was the lack of musicians with a degree in music. The city director (your local mortician, druggist or so called professional musician) saw a new era coming where they could expand their influence into the schools. Thus, their services were offered to the schools. Glen Auble in his book Strike Up The Band states: “The habit (of using locals) grew to a point where the State Department of Education chose to recognize these men for their service and did so in the early 30's.” Since there were few musicians with a degree, a process was developed to give these persons some type of certification. Again, Glen Auble states: “By taking an all day examination in Lincoln, concerning the fundamentals of music and band instruments,and getting a passing grade, was given a so-called Exemption Certificate!”

I mention Glen Auble as he was an Optometrist In Ord, without a music degree, but with a passion for bands. In the aforementioned book he speaks of Bond’s Concert Band–the first band in Ord–organized in 1894. It was made up of business and professional men from the community. They had their own concert hall and gave weekly concerts the year round and open air concerts in the summer. The band even imported professional musicians.

Glen Auble certainly left his imprint on a number of band programs. He initiated band programs in Ord, Comstock, Burwell, Taylor and North Loup, these bands eventually numbering 40-80 bandsmen. These bands were all created because representatives of the community wanted bands in their schools. Glen Auble was an itinerant part-time musician willing to share his talents to help schools initiate programs. Many of the older directors around the state were either full or part-time itinerant musicians. Many of these persons were college students who filled-in during their college years as there were no full-time professionals to hire.

It would be nice to be able to state exactly when the band movement had its greatest initial impetus in Nebraska and what the major influences were. In some cases one can only surmise but there were sign posts along the way which either suggest or give us exact information. As we reach about 1924, there is some organization of activities and we can find specific information on many things.

Post World War I: After World War I we began to see some instrumental music as part of the school curriculum. However, it was treated as an extra-curricular activity with rehearsals before and after school. Most band rehearsals were before school with other special rehearsals held after school. Beginning classes sometimes met during the school day but frequently were taught after school. The early instruction was class instruction with all of the instruments together and with the director trying to teach all the different instruments in one setting. Most schools did not include band in the school day until the early 60's, but this process was slow to come.

The first effort to organize the band directors took place with the formation of the High School Music Association. The express purpose was stated as follows: “It shall be the purpose of this organization to promote school music in the state of Nebraska and administer state music competitions.” There was a five member “Board of Control” which was empowered to administer all aspects of the contest including rules, supervision, enforcement, appeals and finances.

The majority of the State Contests were hosted by Lincoln H.S. There were no District Contests at this time so anyone wishing to enter was eligible to participate. Bands all met in one class. Points were assigned to each category on the judging sheets and a winner was named in each category based on the total number of points.

The State Music Contest became a thing of the past with formation of the Nebraska Music Educators Asssociation in 1937. The first District Contests, as we know them today, took place in 1937. There were originally six districts which were later expanded to seven. Apparently the music “Board of Control” named the sites, local chairs, and, of course, the rules.

Organization of first bandmasters begins: In 1936 Art Harrell conducted a personal survey of several states that had active organizations and presented a set of ideas he felt could and should be adapted in Nebraska. There is no question that Mr. Harrell was the leading force in organizing the bandmen. He circulated a letter to bandmen in the state in which he states: For some time it has been the feeling of several of the bandmen through out the state that we should have some type of organization for the band and orchestra men. (Used collectively as in entirely all cases, the band director had responsibility for the orchestra as well) It is also our feeling that this organization, whatever its final form may be, is not to replace any existing organization or even to set up any opposition to any existing program but simply to provide a means of bringing into closer unity and harmony those of us engaged in a common undertaking and to provide a means of instruction, clinic discussion and fellowship.

The bandmen met on May 1, 1936 for organizational purposes. They selected the name “Nebraska Band Masters Association and officers were elected. An initial program format was suggested and R. Cedric Anderson, who had been selected as the organizational chair, presented the tentative program to the Executive Committee and organizational committee in Kearney on Sunday, October 11, 1936. The first Nebraska Bandmaster Association was held in Hastings on November 26, 27 and 28, 1936. (The convention and ensuing events will be presented in detail in another chapter.)

First Clinic/ Convention: The first clinic/convention was a huge success but Art Harrell and other organizers had already suggested that it should be broader and include other facets of the music program. Thus, in November of 1937 a joint convention of the Second Annual Clinic of the Nebraska Band Masters Association and the first Clinic of the Nebraska Choral Directors Association was held in Wayne, Nebraska.

War Emergency Meeting: In 1945 the National Music Educators Association called a special War Emergency Meeting to substitute in place of the state convention. The Nebraska delegation attended a conference in Indianapolis. The Nebraska delegation was comprised of three band directors.

The basis of the meeting was to discuss what would happen to school music programs after World War II. They recognized that after World War I the music programs in our schools grew to gigantic proportions. Bands were springing up everywhere and state and national contests, festivals and music events of all types were inaugurated. The conclusion was that we need not worry but be ready for the opportunities that lie ahead. The band directors (all music educators) must to ready to render assistance, guidance, and instruction as programs develop.

Other Significant Facts: Other significant facts will appear as separate chapters within the book. However, another important subject was the selection of students for the All-State Band. Periodic discussions had taken place for some time regarding the possibility of auditioning students for the Clinic Band. There was overwhelming resistance at first as every school was guaranteed one member of the band–a list was submitted by the Band Director to a selection committee who primarily selected on the basis of needs to balance the band instrumentation. It was felt, with the advent of auditions, that many schools would be left out of the process and that the larger schools would have the preponderance of the participants. The first auditions took place in 1962 and a 163 piece band was selected–much smaller than previous bands. As feared, the larger schools dominated.

One of the most important events for this association was the formation of the current Nebraska State Bandmaster Association which was formed in 1962. In December of 1960 George Anderson of Lincoln submitted a short article to the Nebraska Music Educator magazine which read; “Are there 100 Band Directors in the State of Nebraska who would like to organize the Nebraska Band Directors Association? If so, send me $10 and we’ll be under way. It is thought that we have needed such an organization in our state to help promote music education, develop better esprit de corps, and proved a social fraternity”. The organizational meeting was held January 7, 1962 at Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln. (this will appear in a separate chapter)


World War II had a profound effect on the band movements throughout the entire United States. Nebraska felt the impact as much as any of region of the country but there was a mutual concern that caused the National Music Educators Association, (now MENC) to call war emergency council meetings to substitute for the regular meetings of the biannual conferences in 1945. Nebraska was represented by R. Cedric Anderson of North Platte, Kenneth Lotspeich of Kearney and Lytton S. Davis of Omaha.

Quoting directly from an article in the NMEA Journal: “The purpose of this council was to formulate definite objectives in music education, to develop a unity of thought and set up definite ideas and a program which would carry the school music education program through this trying and difficult period of war. Music programs have been suspended in many schools, curtailed everywhere, and it was felt that something must be done to organize our thoughts, our plans and our objectives so that once the war is over, we can go forward to greater expansion and development of the music program in our schools.”

They recognized that after World War I music programs in our schools grew to gigantic proportions; choruses, bands, and orchestras sprang into being everywhere; district, state and national contests developed into major school activities, festivals of all types were inaugurated. The general consensus of opinion, as expressed by the consultants at Chicago, (not named in the article in the Nebraska Music Educators Journal) was that music and the other arts would assume an even greater place of importance in the post war program of education. “Music educators must be ready for tor the opportunities and aware of the needs for the expansion and continued development of the music programs in the post war period and they must stand ready to render assistance in the organization, guidance and instruction in such a program.”

There are still a number of the band directors in Nebraska who began their training during World War II and were products of the immense growth of music programs after the conclusion of the war. We have witnessed the increasing importance of band in all the schools. There may not be a war the dimension of our World Wars to create a crisis, but there still needs to be constant vigilance to preserve and maintain our band programs.—thus, one of the major responsibilities of your NSBA Executive Board.

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