Community Bands - Past and Present


About 1895 a band known as the Beaver Band was organized under the leadership of Peter J. Doell.  
It existed for a number of years furnishing music for picnics, weddings and political activities in the surrounding territory.  About the same time a second band was formed in Henderson which existed for about five years.  These two bands were followed by a third band under the direction of P.P. Braun.  These bands were the forerunners of what is now the Henderson High School Band.


The Blair Area Community Band was organized in March of 1994 by Mr. Joe Chapman, who is still director of the band.  The stated purpose is to promote, encourage, and increase the knowledge, appreciation and practice of the art of instrumental music.  The first concert was held in the summer of 1994.

The first band was made up of 35 musicians from 5 different communities in the Blair area.  It has since grown to 65-70 members on a regular basis, coming from 16 communities in Nebraska and Iowa.  The band rehearses twice a month September through May and presents two concerts a year, one in the summer and one in the winter, plus participating in the Gateway to the West parade held in Blair each June.  The band also performed for the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association in March of 2001.


During the early 1920's, the town of Bloomfield organized and supported a community band and hired Eric Ecklund, a band instructor, as the director.  The members were business men, farmers and professional musicians  several, of whom had been members of the 1st Regiment Band of the United States Army.  The band was composed of brass and reed instruments.  Mr. Ecklund also organized a youth band composed of boys from about age 10 through teens.  After a few years, Mr. Ecklund left and was replaced by Mr. C. B. Stuart.

The band played for many occasions, including Memorial Day, 4th of July, and other occasions as requested.  A highlight was playing in the Black Hills in honor of President Calvin Coolidge.  The community band disbanded with the coming of the high school band in the late 1920's.


The Bordeaux Community Band began in the fall of 1993 with Carola Winkle as the conductor.  The band has an average membership of 50 and presents two concerts a year, one in the fall and one in the spring.  A unique feature available to members is one hour of credit through Chadron State College.  Rehearsals are held weekly.  Personnel is from the Nebraska communities of Chadron, Crawford, Scottsbluff and Morrill, plus Hot Springs and Oelrichs, South Dakota.  Often the Bordeaux Band combines concerts with Merry Tuba Christmas, Woodwind Ensembles, Chadron Community Chorus, Chadron State College Wind Ensemble and the West Nebraska Winds of West Nebraska Community College.


The Dannebrog Area Community band was organized in 1990 when a new band stand was built on thlawn of the City Hall. Mike Flynn, music director for Palmer Public Schools was the director; Band members come from the neighboring towns of Farwell, Cairo, Wood River, St. Libory, St Paul and Grand Island.

The main concert is held the first weekend in June during the Danish Grundlovsfest Celebration.  The band also plays carols during the Glaedelig Jul Old Fashioned Danish Christmas Celebration in December.  A highlight was playing for Postcards From Nebraska, a CBS News “Sunday Morning" segment by Roger Welsch of Nebraska.


Brief historical background:

The Deshler Concert Band was the pride of the community for over 50 years.  The first record of a community band was referred to in 1889, and at that time it was called the Deshler Brass Band.  Albert Federspiel, a local Blacksmith, was the organizer and first director of the band The band was reorganized in 1896 and was referred to as the Cornet Band.  Various reorganizations took place throughout the years and in 1906, Henry Sittler organized a Deshler Concert  Band which gave concerts on Deshler’s main street throughout the Summer.  The band continued under his direction until 1948, when he died of a lingering illness.

Highlights of Band Program:

On October 10, 1912, the Deshler Concert Band played at a reception for Woodrow Wilson in Lincoln.  The band also made numerous appearances at the State Fair.

The Deshler Concert Band was the pride of the community for over 50 years.  The first record of a community band was referred to in 1889, and at that time it was called the Deshler Brass Band.  Albert Federspiel, a local Blacksmith, was the organizer and first director of the band The band was reorganized in 1896 and was referred to as the Cornet Band.  Various reorganizations took place throughout the years and in 1906, Henry Sittler organized a Deshler Concert  Band which gave concerts on Deshler’s main street throughout the summer.  The band continued under his direction until 1948, when he died of a lingering illness.


In 1927, the Eden Valley Band was organized by Herman Kuhl with 35 members.  The band continued through the depression years and was in demand all over the area.  Concerts were given from the Plainview bandstand and in the city square.  It also made other special appearances, such as the Pierce and Knox County Fairs, Farmers’ Union picnics at Niobrara and Osmond, and the 4th of July at Foster.


The first known record of any band activity in Geneva was in 1875 when Silas B. Camp came to town after having taught music in Beatrice in 1873-74.  Mr. Camp organized a band that year and was active in this work until 1904.  Not much is known of the first few years of this band, but in 1882 a history of Nebraska states that Geneva, a town of 500 people, had three bands: Geneva Cornet Band, Company G Martial Band, and a juvenile band.  Probably some members were active in more than one band, and, as far as is known, Mr. Camp was the inspiration and motivating influence behind the entire band program as well as the director of all three bands.  Company G had been organized in 1881, indicating that the Martial Band was a fairly new organization in 1882.

In the formation, organization, and direction of the first band in Geneva, Silas B. Camp was the outstanding personality both in instruction and inspiration.  Mr. Camp left for Idaho in 1904 and the band movement was temporarily suspended.  However, the desire for a Geneva band was always quite strong and in July, 1907, a number of local musicians desiring to have a band, held a meeting and the town band was reborn.  On June 19, 1907, The Brotherhood of St. Paul Orchestra, so named because the members held their rehearsals in the Brotherhood Room of the Geneva Methodist Church.  A number of different persons directed the Brotherhood Band as they maintained an important role in the community.

Although conditions during World War I were to disrupt the band program considerably, the City Band, with 22 players, continued to give Wednesday night concerts.  There were times that as few as eight players were available, but they were able to boast that they never missed giving a concert during the war.

LINCOLN COMMUNITY CONCERT BAND was organized in the fall of 1981 by Jack R. Snider, Director of Bands and Professor of Music, Emeritus, at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, followed by Duane W. Johnson, diector of bands at Lincoln East High School; Dr. Larry Mallett, Dir. of School Of Music, UNL; Dr. Brian Pfoltner, Lincoln; & current director Dr. Patrick Fortney, Prof. of Music and Dean of School Of Arts and Sciences, Peru State College.

Members of the band are adult volunteers from many walks of life who enjoy playing their instruments and wish to continue making music. The LCCB rehearses during the school year and presents four regular concerts each year, all of which are free and open to the public. The band meets in Westbrook Music Building on the UNL campus on Monday evenings, and concerts are held at Kimball Recital. The band also sometimes performs at public schools in Lincoln and surrounding communities.


Originally formed as the Burlington Railroad Band, the Lincoln Municipal Band is Nebraska’s oldest and only professional concert wind ensemble.  For over 85 years the band has presented a series of free concerts in Lincoln’s Antelope Park during the summer for citizens of Lincoln and surrounding communities.  In 1992, the city recognized and honored the late John Shildneck, who conducted the band for over 59 years, naming the park bandshell after him.  Mr Shildneck was followed by Dr. Herbert Dregalla as music director and conductor until the late 1990's.  Other conductors have since included Jack Snider (Prof. Emeritus, UNL), Bob Krueger, and Terry Rush, all of Lincoln.

In 1993, the band started a new series of two indoor concerts during the winter months, one of which features the John Shildneck Young Artist Competition, which affords talented young musicians an opportunity to be featured as instrumental soloist with the band.

In 1994, the band represented the City of Lincoln and the United States at the World Exposition in Mie, Japan, at which the band premiered a commissioned work by noted Nebraska composer Randall Snyder.  The band also frequently performs at other special events such as the Cornhusker State Games and 4th of July celebrations in Lincoln, as well as presenting concerts for the Lincoln Public Schools.


Directors: Bill Larsen, 1956 - 1967; Phil Fahrlander, 1968 - 1980


The Nebraska Wind Symphony was founded in 1977 by Darwyn (Tony) Snyder, director of bands at Omaha Westside High School, with a roster of 92 members.  Tony retired in 1995 and was followed by Larry MacTaggart of the Strategic Air Command Band, Omaha, who was followed by the current director Dr. Tim Yontz, University of Nebraska-Omaha.

The Wind Symphony’s season extends from September through June with three formal concerts yearly, plus frequent special performances at special events such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center commencement exercises and the Summer Arts Festival in Omaha.

Over the years, a variety of guest conductors and composers have appeared with the band, including Leo Kucinski, Claude T. Smith, Alfred Reed, Joyce Johnson-Hamilton, and James Christensen.  The band has also premiered works by Timothy Mahr, Rossano Galante, and Warren Barker.
In 1991, the Wind symphony hosted and performed at the thirteenth annual convention of the Association of Community Bands; in 1993 it was a part of the Heartland Heroes celebration to welcome home the veterans of Desert Storm.



In 1879, Long F. Lenger (born 1849), and his wife, moved to the newly established town of Niobrara, NE.  Lenger had come to the U.S. in 1869 from Bohemia, where he had studied in a Prague music conservatory and was a musician in the Austrian army.  He came to Niobrara from Yankton, S.D., where he had formed the Yankton City Band.

In 1882, he organized the Niobrara Helicon Band, comprised of 40 members.  It was recognized as the Nebraska state band in 1883.  He also organized other bands in Lynch, Verdel, Winetoon, Orchard, Page, Royal and Foster, plus Gregory, S.D.  However, his famous band, organized in 1884, was the Santee Sioux Band on the Niobrara Reservation, consisting entirely of native Santee tribesmen.  The band appeared at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha in 1898, and a special command performance for President Benjamin Harrison (date unknown).  Lenger later moved to Nampa, ID, where he directed the municipal band; he died in 1941.


In 1883 a 10-piece brass band was started in Oakland; this was then followed by the official organization of the Oakland Town Band in 1887 by Art Neumann, who was the director until 1942 followed by Buell Ford until the end of the band’s existence in 1953.  This original band started with 13 men and eventually grew to an average 35-40 in the 1930's-40's.

In the early 1900's, weekly concerts were held in the summer on Main Street on Wednesday nights.  Lighting was provided by gasoline lights held by men sitting around the band; eventually stands were made to hold the lights.  Starting in 1933, the concerts were held in the park on Thursday nights.  Over the years, over three hundred persons played in the band; uniquely, the 1887 bass and snare drums were used for 66 continuous years.

Some of the members of the band became professional musicians, including Maurice Ford who attended the Navy School of Music and served as bandmaster of Shore and Ship Bands; he played a key role in arranging for the U.S Navy Band to play a massed band concert with fourteen area high school band in Oakland in 1952.



The Papillion Area Concert Band (PAC Band) was organized in the summer of 1986.  Mr. Ken Molzer, the founder and director of the band, surveyed the area with the aid of the Papillion Parks and Recreation Department to determine if there were enough interested musicians to form a community band.  The response was overwhelming and the first two concerts were held in the city park that summer.  Since that time, enthusiasm has grown.  The band not only performs during the summer in the park, but also rehearses once a month during the school year and performs a winter concert in conjunction with the Papillion Lions Club Spaghetti Feed at the Papillion-LaVista High School Auditorium.  Other performances include: Dixieland Band’s Stroke Foundation Fund Raiser at the German-American Club; the Papillion Days Parade and Papillion Days concert; the Relay for Life American Cancer Society fund raiser; and dedication/ribbon-cutting for the Papillion/LaVista South High Theater.  The PAC also plays Christmas carols during Papillion’s Olde German Christmas and at the annual Community Carol Concert (sponsored by the Tri-City Ministerial Association). 

A board of directors was formed in the spring of 1987.  Articles of incorporation and by-laws were filed as a non-profit corporation in the State of Nebraska.  It was agreed by members of the board of directors that the purpose of the PAC Band would be to promote, encourage, and increase the knowledge, appreciation and practice of the art of instrumental music.  There are no auditions for membership, which is open to any musician beyond high school who enjoys playing band music.  The PAC Band is funded primarily through donations.


The Plainview Klown Band originated  in 1955 as part of the “Klown Karnival Days” festival.  The members usually number about 10-14 and dress in typical clown outfits and facial make-up.  For many years they have traveled to other towns for special events, including Alliance, Columbus, Norfolk, Pierce, plus many years of appearing at the Nebraska State Fair.  In 1984, the band was presented with the Ak-Sar-Ben Good Neighbor Award for its outstanding contributions to the people of Nebraska.


The Seward Municipal Band has been in existence for 125 years.  The Seward band is one of the oldest community bands in Nebraska and is funded by the city of Seward. 

Concerts are given each Sunday evening at the Seward Band Shell. The concerts include a wide variety of music:  marches, polkas, hymn arrangements, Broadway musical medleys, concert band compositions, TV theme songs, and golden oldies.  Every concert begins with the audience rising to their feet for the “Stars Spangled Banner”.


In 1974, a group of senior citizens in the Siouxland area (Sioux City, IA & Dakota County, NE) organized the Siouxland Senior Citizens Band, comprised of ten 70 and 80 year old people who, after several years of not playing their instruments on a regular basis, began to play for the community’s enjoyment and entertainment.  Directed by Joe Kamper on drums, the instrumentation included violins, accordian, piano, guitar, drums, saxophone and mandolin.

Although the main venue was a weekly performance at the South Sioux City Senior Citizens Center, the band played for over fifty-five groups just in the years 1974 & 1975.  Some of the special events included Homer’s Centennial Celebration in 1975, and their annual 4th of July celebrations, the 1975 Volunteer Firemen’s  Association in Dakota City, the Dakota County Fair Parade and many other special occasions.  Also, in 1975 the band received the South Sioux City Red Cross “Certificate of Merit” for their services to the community, and in 1976 the band was awarded the Ak-Sar-Ben Good Neighbor Award.

At the last report, it is believed that the band is still active, playing on Thursday’s at the Senior Citizens Center.


The Tekamah Chamber of Commerce Band - T-Bones - started in October of 1969.  A group of 9 men got together and paraded into the high school gym unannounced and played during a pep rally.  The goal was to help inject a little more spirit into the school activities.  The group decided to stay together to spread their special brand of community spirit and enthusiasm.  The band got its title from the local Chamber of Commerce motto: “Tekamah–T-Bones of the Beef State.”  Nearly 60 different men have played in the band at one time or another, having made more than 260 appearances over the years.  Sponsored by the Chamber, the band has a float that is used in numerous parades and have performed concerts in nursing homes and at special parties in Nebraska and Iowa.


The Wisner Cornet Band was started in 1883 under the direction of Dr. H. Pritchard.  The band was much in demand at all civic functions: Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Fourth of July and the County Fair—all found the band in attendance.  After the Spanish American War in 1898, the band became the official band of the First Regiment of the Nebraska National Guard.  Under Pritchard’s guidance, the band flourished and enjoyed an enviable reputation throughout the state.

In 1905, the Regimental Band performed at the Wisner Opera House, and also played the Chatauqua Circuit in the region, including one at Hastings, NE; Chataqua was a very popular “concert in the park” concept in many communities during this era.  The band was also in demand in Omaha, where it performed at the Ak-Sar-Ben festival as well as on a statewide train tour sponsored by the Omaha Commercial Club.  The inmates of the state penitentiary in Lincoln were also favored with music from the band.  For many years the band also played Wednesday night band concerts in downtown Wisner, which during this time was under the direction of Edwin “Tommy” Thompson (exact years not known).

In the early days of radio, the Wisner Community Band, as it was later named, broadcast from station WJAG of Norfolk.  Eventually, as new forms of entertainment appeared, interest in the band waned and in 1934 it was disbanded.

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