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Music

Bright Kalamazoo: 1854 Song and Chorus

Over the years, dozens of songs have been written in and/or inspired by the town of Kalamazoo. Among the earliest of these “Kalamazoo” songs was a piece composed in 1854 about the Kalamazoo River entitled “Bright Kalamazoo.”

Chester Z. Bronson

From an early age, Chester Z. Bronson was at the forefront of American popular entertainment during its most formative years. Though he called Kalamazoo home for much of his adult life, Bronson’s tireless professional career took him on the road...

Duplex Phonograph Co.

As nineteenth century Victorian charm gave way to twentieth century modern, the phonograph emerged as a compelling new form of home entertainment. The skeptics, of course, refused to take the “talking machine” seriously at first, viewing it more...

Early Jazz in Kalamazoo (1917-1925)

Folks weren’t exactly sure what it was or what to call it. At first it was “jass,” a derogatory term that soon came to mean just the opposite. Some called it “wild, weird and woozy.” Others called it “pep,” “ginger,” “snap,” “zippy,” “snappy,”...

Edward B. Desenberg

Music was clearly Edward Desenberg’s first love. Formally educated in Kalamazoo and abroad, Desenberg quickly became an instructor, composer and entertainer of substantial merit. Following closely in his father’s footsteps, Desenberg later...

Edward H. Snuggs

Born in Kalamazoo on the first of March, 1886, Edward Harrison Snuggs grew to become one of the city’s most beloved bandleaders. From his early days as an up-and-coming young trombonist, through the “Jazz Age” and beyond as a top-notch composer...

Ellis L. Brooks

Ellis L. Brooks (1848-1920) was a trombonist, composer and popular bandleader with strong ties to West Michigan. Brooks directed famous bands in New York and Chicago during the late nineteenth century, and was ranked among contemporaries...

Fischer’s Exposition Orchestra

Kalamazoo has long had a strong connection with the production and performance of music. Since the mid-nineteenth century, local, nationally-recognized, and even world-famous instrument makers, educators and performers have actively pursued their...

Frank E. Holton

Among the leading musicians of the late nineteenth century, Frank Holton emerged from humble West Michigan roots to become not only a celebrated trombonist but one of the most successful musical instrument manufacturers in the world...

George B. and Frank A. Newell

When William and Marilla Newell came to Kalamazoo County in the 1850s and estabished their farm in Texas Township near the Van Buren County line, little could they have known about the lasting impact their future children would have on the...

Gibson Inc.

Until the 1920s, Gibson had specialized almost exclusively in mandolins. But as America’s musical tastes evolved during the 1920s and 1930s, so did Gibson’s. Banjos, ukuleles, and guitars became increasingly popular. In the early ’20s, the company...

Gibson, Orville H. (1856-1918)

When did O.H. Gibson arrive in Kalamazoo, and why? Volumes have been written about the Gibson Guitar company and its musical legacy, but less is known about the man behind the name; the musician, the performer, the craftsman, Orville H. Gibson.

Grace Tyson

The Tyson family was deeply rooted in Kalamazoo County long before Grace Tyson was born. Herbert Tyson (born about 1812) and Elizabeth D. Tyson (born about 1813) maintained a farm in Climax (Pavilion Township, Kalamazoo County) where they raised...

Henderson-Ames Company

One of the country’s leading producers of uniforms and regalia, the Henderson-Ames Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan, served lodges, secret societies, and other social organizations for forty years. Frank Henderson first moved to Kalamazoo from...

Kalamazoo’s Early Music Stores

Over the years Kalamazoo has become famous for many things musical; guitars, organs, pianos, even records, but what was Kalamazoo’s first record store? Who was behind the town’s earliest music stores and what were music fans buying in those days?

Military Bands of 19th Century Kalamazoo

To say that military and brass bands were popular during the 19th century is like saying the Beatles were popular during the 1960s; military bands were immensely popular in their day.
Band music was viewed by most as both patriotic and...

Phillips Brothers

Of all the dance orchestras and concert ensembles that Kalamazoo produced during the 19th century, the Phillips Brothers’ Orchestra was among the busiest… and perhaps the best. Five talented violinists; Joseph, Joshua, Sylvester, Albert and...

Ragtime in Kalamazoo

More than 27 million people — nearly half of the US population at the time — visited the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Yet most of those who attended were probably not aware that they had witnessed the birth of a new art form, which would...

Roots of Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (KSO) officially began in 1921 under the shrewd leadership of business manager and president Leta G. Snow, with Chester Z. Bronson directing. But this was not Kalamazoo's first symphony orchestra nor was it Chester...

Social Music in Nineteenth Century Kalamazoo

Before the days of the big bands; before jazz and ragtime; while military bands ruled street parades and open air concerts, Kalamazoo's many dance orchestras filled nineteenth century assembly halls and ballrooms with the sweet strains of the...

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