Military Bands of Kalamazoo

Early Parade and Concert Bands: 1837–1842

“Strike Up the Band!”

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 “proper.” Brass bands became the centerpieces of parades, public events and social gatherings, including funerals, weddings, and other occasions.

Otsego Cornet Band, ca. 1882. IBEW

The Village Band

A harness maker from New Jersey named John Everard, Sr., brought his family to Kalamazoo (then Bronson Village) in the autumn of 1834, just four years after Titus Bronson arrived, and soon organized the community’s first band. One of the earliest documented performances of a community band in Kalamazoo was in June 1837, when the “Village Band” played during the wedding of Mr. Thomas S. AtLee and Miss Mary H. Edwards.

“The village band were in attendance on the bridal night, and tended materially to enliven the leisures of the evening, by playing several pieces of new and popular music, which had been expressly solicited for the occasion…”

Kalamazoo Gazette, June 10, 1837

Sheet music, c.1878 Library of Congress.

“Flutes, Flageolets and Violin Strings”

During the summer of 1837, local musicians would have found at least some of their musical supplies, including flutes, flageolets (a woodwind instrument), and violin strings, at the new Kalamazoo Bookstore. A more extensive selection of printed music, instruction books and musical instruments was available within a few days’ ride via the stagecoach lines from Morse & Brothers’ newly opened Book and Music Store in Detroit. According to Morse & Brothers’ frequent local advertisements, accordions, flutes, clarionets[sic], fifes, flageolets, bass and snare drums, bassoons, trombones, violins, French and post horns, and other instruments were in stock and available for immediate purchase. The store also offered piano music; “all the new and fashionable dances, duets, waltzes, etc.” (Gazette).

“When four or more people got together in Kalamazoo or the surrounding area … they hollered for a band.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, September 3, 1950

Kalamazoo Band: 1842–1851

Further evidence of a well organized community band could be found in June 1842, when the Kalamazoo Band “contributed largely to the entertainment” (Gazette) during a meeting of the Kalamazoo County Washingtonians at the courthouse, which was then a primary venue for public concerts and other performances. Three weeks later, the Kalamazoo (County) Band led the local contingent in the Independence Day parade and patriotic exercises in Schoolcraft.

“At about eleven o’clock the Kalamazoo delegation, preceded by a cavalcade of horse, with the new County Band, came up in great style and were received with loud and reiterated cheers.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, July 8, 1842

Early Concert Performances

Kalamazoo Gazette, September 16, 1842.

In September 1842, the Kalamazoo Band announced a benefit concert at Johnson Patrick’s newly renovated hotel on Main Street to help raise funds to purchase instruments, music, and to secure the services of a teacher. Admission for the event was 25¢, and the rules of the band specifically stated that all money received would be used for purposes of the band and not for individual use.

Though attendance was light due to a “superior attraction” in town, those who saw the show “appeared highly gratified with the performances” (Gazette). Members of the community were encouraged to attend a second concert at the courthouse the following week, where the band once again, “assisted by their gentlemanly and discriminating teacher, Mr. Nash, of Marshall, truly discoursed most excellent music” (Gazette). During the winter months, the Kalamazoo Band could be found performing during the monthly meetings of the Young People’s Temperance Society.

“It was gratifying to observe so many, of both sexes, in ‘these hard times,’ manifesting a laudable disposition to support and applaud native talent”

Kalamazoo Gazette, October 7, 1842

By May 1843, the band was beginning to feature its own compositions, including the “Union City” quickstep, a tune composed and arranged by Director Nash, which was praised by the Gazette “as one of the most stirring and effective pieces ever heard.” A third benefit concert “consisting of a variety of new and popular music” (Gazette) was held in September.

Celebrating the Nation’s Independence

July 1843 saw the Kalamazoo Band make the journey to Allegan for the Independence Day celebration. After an exhausting full day’s ride, band members were given a warm reception by the Allegan residents, who filled the church to capacity for the evening concert. The following day, “Hail Columbia,” “Star Spangled Banner,” and “Yankee Doodle” (regarded at the time as “the true National Anthem”) were particularly popular numbers among the crowd of six hundred, as were the hundred-foot-long tables full of food. “The arrangement was exquisite, the provision liberal, the viands delicious, and, Oh, mercy! how we did down them” (Gazette).

Genesee Prairie Celebration

Three years later, the Kalamazoo Band could be found at the Genesee Prairie Independence Day Celebration at Bass Lake (near Texas Corners). A group of several hundred gathered at the Genesee Prairie School House at 8 am and marched to Bass Lake, for a day of food, music and celebration. “The music of the band was enlivening and contributed much to the pleasure of the celebration,” wrote the Gazette on July 10, 1846. “The evening closed with a most magnificent thunderstorm, fitting close to our glorious day!”

“The 1st of September 1847, was a memorable day in the history of our lovely village. A large concourse of citizens of this and adjoining counties had assembled here to witness the departure of Lieut. Taylor’s Recruits for Jefferson Barracks, en route for Mexico. Everybody expected to see something more than common; and when the first notes of music from our excellent Band, swelled along the air, and mingled into grand chorus, the gathering multitude swayed to and fro … I cannot close without expressing the entire satisfaction given by the members of the Kalamazoo Brass Band: their inspiring and martial music gave a most favorable effect and termination to all the proceedings, and from every quarter they have received honest and well-merited applause.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, September 10, 1847

The War of ‘47

Fourth of July exercises in 1848 were held in Kalamazoo with the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence by Hon. Charles E. Stuart, and music by the Kalamazoo Band. But the real celebration that year came a month later when the Kalamazoo Band joined local military personnel at the railway depot — albeit at 4 am — to welcome the volunteers back home from the Mexican-American War.

“Some of our boys are getting up a brass band, having procured a set of fine instruments from the celebrated establishment of A. Couse, Detroit. …the company will soon become well skilled, and enabled to discourse delightful music to our inhabitants.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, May 27, 1853

Kalamazoo Brass Band: 1853–1861

By May 1853, a new band had emerged. The Kalamazoo Brass Band was organized under the leadership of Charles P. Hubbard, “a most competent teacher” (Gazette). After a few weeks of practice, the new band was ready for the Independence Day celebration “underneath the Burr Oaks” in the village park.

The band greeted equally enthusiastic crowds and “discoursed the most excellent music during the intervals of the exercises” (Gazette) at the Kalamazoo County Agricultural Fair in October.

“The Kalamazoo Brass Band, in the spirit of emulation, poured out a flood of patriotic music, cheering and animating the hundreds who followed in its wake.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, July 8, 1853

Problems on the Plank Road

An accident while on the way to perform in Allegan nearly spelled disaster for the band in October 1854 when the bandwagon overturned on the plank road north of Kalamazoo. With its members both bruised and broken, the band never made it to Allegan that day, but instead returned to Kalamazoo to mend.

“Burr Oak” and “Excelsior”

Kalamazoo’s Fourth of July celebration in 1857 again featured the Kalamazoo Brass Band, led by Charles Hubbard. The band performed two of Professor Hubbard’s recent compositions, “Burr Oak” quickstep and “Excelsior” quickstep, both numbers named in honor of the local fire companies. The same outfit led the grand procession through the streets of Kalamazoo during the Firemen’s Tournament two weeks later. The parade included both local fire companies (“Burr Oak” and “Excelsior”), bands from Albion and Marshall, plus fire equipment from more than a dozen companies across the state.

“Second to None in the State”

The Kalamazoo Brass Band remained under Hubbard’s direction until 1861. In June of that year, a benefit concert was given to raise funds to employ a new director, J. E. Hartel, a former member of Booker’s Minstrels. Having recently moved to Kalamazoo, Hartel hoped to reorganize the band and “put it on a footing second to none in the state” (Gazette).

Round Oak Band, Dowagiac, MI, c.1800s. Kalamazoo Valley Museum Photograph File.


“For several days the residents of a certain locality in Lowell were wondering who it was that was doing so much saw filing in the neighborhood. Later they found out that the newly organized village band had been practicing in a building nearby.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, March 7, 1900

Civilian Community Bands

So-called “civilian” bands became an increasingly important part of the social landscape during the 1860s. The famous bandmasters of the era (Monsieur Antoine Jullien, and later Patrick Gilmore, et al.) were beginning to draw crowds in major metropolitan centers, while seemingly every small town in America organized a band of its own. Southwest Michigan was no exception; bands of significant (and perhaps otherwise) merit could be found in Dowagiac, Paw Paw, Constantine, Allegan, Otsego, Portage, Oshtemo, Alamo, Brady, Augusta, Climax, Vicksburg, Sturgis, Galesburg, Comstock, Plainwell, Prairie Ronde, Schoolcraft, Texas, Three Rivers, Battle Creek, and of course, Kalamazoo, just to name a few.

Battle Creek Band, c.1800s. Willard Library, Battle Creek

Silver Cornet Band: 1863

Kalamazoo Telegraph, June 5, 1868

With the nation in the midst of the Civil War, a second generation of local musicians formed the Silver Cornet Band in 1863. Led by William Stacey, the band held its first meeting on September 19, 1863, on the third floor of “Cameron’s brick store” on Main Street. The roster included George W. Russell, George E. Guernsey, Samuel Born, Sr., Abram C. Faling, Johannis Christian Born, John Henson “Heinz” Everard, and Benjamin Cleenewerk.

Samuel Born’s sons; Sam R. Born, J.C. Born and Levinus Born, would later lead many popular Kalamazoo bands well into the twentieth century. John H. Everard, whose father had organized the first Kalamazoo Band some three decades earlier, was later involved with many prominent local musical organizations, including the first Symphony Orchestra. William Stacey led the Silver Cornet Band until about 1869.

When Michigan’s battered 13th Regiment rolled into Kalamazoo on the Friday morning train, February 12, 1864, the Kalamazoo Band was on hand to welcome the troops home after a two-year tour of duty during the Civil War. Following a heart-felt rendition of “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” the Kalamazoo Band led Colonel Culver and his troops in a parade down Burdick Street to the town center; then west on Main Street to Park Street, south to South Street, east to Portage Street, north to Main, then back west on Main Street to Fireman’s Hall for a formal reception.

“Some of its choicest pieces of music”

In June 1864, a celebration to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ordination of Rev. I. A. Label, founder and pastor of St. Augustine’s Church, documents an early performance by the Silver Cornet Band just months after the band was formed.

“The fine gardens attached to the church and parsonage were finely illuminated, and the entertainment, after the services in the church was closed, was entirely divested of all secular or sectarian character or restraint. The Kalamazoo Silver Cornet Band discoursed some of its choicest pieces of music, amidst a brilliant display of fireworks. The gardens were thronged to their utmost capacity, with crowds of people; among them we noticed many of our most prominent and well known citizens, who indulged with zest and right good will in the festivities of the occasion.”

Kalamazoo Telegraph, June 22, 1864

City Band, c.1870

After the Civil War, the Silver Cornet Band (then often called the City Band) was reorganized under the leadership of James R. “Jim” Green, a local harness maker. Original members Samuel Born, Sr., J. C. Born and John H. Everard were still involved, plus several new members, including John Norman, John Baker, Theodore Olmstead, Gilbert Wright, and John Cummings. Instrumentation at this time featured two cornets, two alto horns, two tenor horns, a baritone horn and tuba, plus bass and snare drums.

“The people of Kalamazoo have reason to be proud of their Silver Cornet Band. The music dispensed by this band on the Fourth, was first class, and drew forth praises from all good judges of music.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, July 6, 1872

During the spring of 1869, the Silver Cornet Band was composed of ten members, under the leadership of E. S. Sweet. The roster included E.J. Godfrey, John H. Everard, R.J. Algeo, J.F. Green, F.D. Dibble, O.J. Berden, G.H. Sager, J.J. Cummings and J.R. Perkinpine. By 1871, the band shared members and management duties with John Everard and Theodore Olmstead’s Orchestral String Band, which played social music for dances, quadrille parties and special occasions. Both bands met for practice in Everard’s quarters above No. 17 North Burdick Street.

Independence Day 1872 saw a crowd of twenty thousand gather in downtown Kalamazoo to hear Col. Delos Phillips read the Declaration of Independence and to enjoy the parade, led by the Silver Cornet Band.

(probably) Peninsular Commandery, No. 8, Kalamazoo Knights Templar, with band, c.1872 History Room Photograph File P-227

“The Knights Templar, when on parade and accompanied by their band, is one of the finest appearing bodies of men in the State.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 28, 1872

Peninsular Commandery Band: 1872–1882

Members of the Silver Cornet Band were closely tied to the Peninsular Commandery No. 8, a local branch of the popular Knights Templar fraternal organization led by its Eminent Commander, Frank Henderson. In July 1872, the Silver Cornet Band was reorganized as the Peninsular Commandery Band and fitted with stunning new uniforms.

The Peninsular Commandery Band led the first annual parade of Peninsular Commandery No. 8, Kalamazoo Knights Templar, on Friday afternoon, 23 August 1872, and soon became the pride of the community, playing prominently in most local parades and civic events for several years.

“The first annual parade of Peninsular Commandery, No. 8, Knights Templar, will take place on Friday afternoon, the 23d inst., beginning at 6½ o’clock. They will be escorted by the Peninsular Commandery Band, which through the liberality of many of our citizens, has been equipped with a rich and model uniform, and for fine appearance will compete with any band in the West.”

—Kalamazoo Telegraph, August 20, 1872.

1876 Centennial Celebration

At its July 1876 meeting, the thirteen-member Peninsular Commandery Band elected new officers, including John Potter, president; William S. Bronson, secretary; F. W. Stein, treasurer; Charles A. Skinkle, leader; Samuel Born and F. W. Stein, business managers. President Potter was a young Kalamazoo musician (son of early Kalamazoo pioneer William Potter) and a graduate of the conservatory of music in Leipzig, Germany.

“The Peninsular Cornet Band furnishes some most excellent music, and are a valuable acquisition to the pleasures of the occasion. They appear in their new and neat grey uniforms with brass buttons.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, June 7, 1876

Crossette’s Constantine Band, c.1870s. Courtesy, Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections.

“Grand Procession”

With help from the Peninsular Commandery Band, Kalamazoo celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in grand style. After ringing the church bells at sunrise and a thirteen cannon salute, the “Grand Procession” got underway at 10 am, led by Professor Crossette’s Constantine Cornet Band. Close behind were Kalamazoo’s Peninsular Commandery Band and the Kalamazoo Cornet Band, followed by “a chariot containing 32 young ladies representing the states,” and “the Old Stage Coach, a relic of the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Three Rivers Stage Company” (Gazette).

Kalamazoo Band, c.1876. History Room Photograph File P-407.

Best in the State

Local and regional press were often highly complimentary of the Peninsular Commandery Band. The Cleveland Herald praised the band in 1877 after an encampment in that city, saying “the Peninsular band of Kalamazoo acquitted itself admirably,” while the Kalamazoo Gazette claimed the band was “capable of being made one of the best in the state.”

In June 1878, the 17-piece Peninsular Commandery Band, once again under the leadership of James Green, proved them right by taking third place out of more than twenty bands at the second annual State Band Tournament in Lansing.

“Peninsular Commandery band, the designated brigade band, may well be styled the pride of Kalamazoo. There is not a poor musician among them. Their uniform and drill is complete; and the music furnished by them cannot well be excelled.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 13, 1880

State Brigade Encampment

By July 1880, William Bronson had become the Peninsular Commandery Band leader and director. The band performed to an “immense crowd” (Gazette) at the local Fourth of July celebration, sponsored a well attended excursion to Diamond Lake aboard the Michigan Central Railroad, and was the featured band for the week-long State Brigade Encampment of the Michigan State Troops, which attracted more than 2,000 soldiers and nearly 40,000 spectators to Kalamazoo in August.

“Kalamazoo Colored Cornet Band” 1870–1891

Active by the summer of 1869 or before, the Kalamazoo Cornet Band went by several names: “Kalamazoo Brass Band,” “Kalamazoo Colored Brass Band,” “Kalamazoo Band, No. 2,” “Kalamazoo Cornet Band,” and later the “City Cornet Band.”   Regardless of what they were called, the Kalamazoo Cornet Band was the community’s leading African-American musical organization until the famous Phillips Brothers came along in the 1890s. With nine members led by Jeremiah E. Glines, the band met for practice on Wednesday and Saturday evenings in a room over 69 Main Street, and performed often throughout West Michigan.

“The Kalamazoo Band, No. 2, (colored) have recently obtained new music, composing the best and most popular of the day. The band is sparing no efforts to make itself worthy of patronage at home and abroad.”

Kalamazoo Telegraph, March 18, 1875

Reorganized and reformed in July 1874, the twelve to fifteen-member Kalamazoo Cornet Band was then led by Augustus T. Hedgbeth, an employee of the Kalamazoo Publishing Company, with instructional assistance by William Stacey, former leader of the Silver Cornet Band. The Kalamazoo Cornet Band took part in many of the local Memorial Day and Independence Day celebrations, and led a procession of more than four hundred in Grand Rapids during a May 1875 celebration to commemorate the adoption of the 15th Amendment. The band was featured along with Crossette’s Constantine Band and the Peninsular Commandery Band during Kalamazoo’s massive centennial celebration of 1876, and participated in the numerous political rallies leading up to the hotly contested election of Rutherford B. Hayes later the same year.

“There is talent in that band.”

“The Kalamazoo Cornet Band made the air vocal with their inspiring strains,” said the Gazette of an August 1877 Grand Jubilee at the National Driving Park. “At half past eleven o’clock, the procession formed and marched through the principal streets, headed by the colored band, which discoursed some very excellent music” (Gazette).

The Kalamazoo Cornet Band was often featured in the annual Emancipation Day (Juneteenth) celebrations in Kalamazoo, Paw Paw, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids and Jackson, and also took part in various events organized by the African M.E. Church. The band remained active under the leadership of Charles Hatfield until 1891, and his successor, Enos M. Roberts, until about 1893.

Schoolcraft Fife & Drum Corp; photographed in front of Fire Engine House Kalamazoo, 1881 Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

Kalamazoo Light Guard Band: 1881

The Light Guard Band made appearances in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo during holiday parades and other special occasions through the summer of 1882, though its appeal (and perhaps ability) had clearly begun to wane.

In April 1881, the Peninsular Commandery Band underwent a significant reorganization. William Bronson left to rejoin the celebrated Constantine Band, and leadership of the Peninsular Commandery Band reverted to James Green. With John Vleiken as musical director, and John Bellenger secretary and business manager, the band officially became known as the Kalamazoo Light Guard Band and attempted to carry on.

“The German workingmen’s picnic at Taylor’s grove was well attended yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyable. The light guard band furnished excellent music for the occasion.” 

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 5, 1881

Kalamazoo City Band: 1881–1885

Following the reorganization of the Peninsular Commandery Band, efforts were made to revive the old City Band and create an organization clearly separate from the Light Guards. By fall, the newest version of the Kalamazoo City Band was back in action, under the leadership of the elder Samuel Born. Born’s brother, John, and two of his sons were also in the band. Some folks simply called it Born’s Band.

“The Kalamazoo band discoursed some excellent music on the street last evening. This band has improved very materially of late.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 9, 1883

In early 1883, the Kalamazoo City Band purchased the uniforms, eighteen in all, from the former Peninsular Commandery (Light Guard) Band, which had by then disbanded. In September, the band traveled south to Rome City, Indiana, with the Kalamazoo Cornet Band to participate in a large regatta and band tournament. The Kalamazoo Band took third place in the competition and claimed a $20 prize.

With the untimely death of bandleader Samuel Born, Sr., in December 1884, Born’s son, Levinus, became the Kalamazoo City Band leader and business manager. Born’s brother-in-law, James McGaw, continued as secretary, Fred Rebman became treasurer and John Vleiken was again the musical director. Members at this time included Gardia P. Simons, Charles A. Skinkle, Hiram Ballou and others. “Born’s brass band” could be found performing at the “grand skating carnival” on Park Street in March, and heading the Memorial Day exercises at Excelsior Rink in May.

“Oh, I will have a crack musical organization in the Kalamazoo City band yet. The material of which a good band is made is always about the same. I don’t know but what the foundation which we had to work in our band was better than the average. Practice and intelligent direction are the secrets for transforming a medium band into a crack organization.”

—Frank M. Crossette, Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, August 2, 1886

Crossette’s Kalamazoo City Band: 1886–1887

For eighteen months, the Kalamazoo City Band remained strong with much of its eighteen-member lineup still intact. In July 1886, Frank M. Crossette, a well known Michigan bandleader and former director of the Constantine Band, was enlisted to give the band some much-needed new direction.

City Band Members (August 1886)

Frank M. Crossett, leader and director
L. Born, first cornet
Chas. Skinkle, B-fiat solo
J. Born, second E-flat cornet
Sam Born, D-flat cornet
Jas. Zander, piccolo
C. Z. Bronson, solo clarinet
Fred Davis, D-flat cornet
Fred Redman, solo E-flat alto
H. Oswalt, first E-flat alto
John Henson “Heinz” Everard, B-flat bass
J. Lane, second B-flat tenor
Hiram W. “Hi” Ballou, solo trombone
James McGaw, E-flat tuba
Oscar G. Clement, solo baritone
John Leak, E-flat alto
John Vleiken, tenor drum
H. Vandepolder, cymbals
A. Landon, bass drum

Guest Musicians (August 1886)
Gardia P. Simons, Constantine
William S. Bronson, Kalamazoo

On Friday, August 13th, the band gave the first in what would become a popular series of outdoor concerts in Bronson Park, while the entire community prepared for the upcoming prestigious Southwestern Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Reunion.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Reunion parade, 19 August 1886. History Room Photograph File P-442.

“The officers of the association formed the mounted escort for the imposing cortege, followed by the Kalamazoo band and cannon. Next came seven Grand Army posts, citizens in carriages, and more posts and bands of music. The parade excelled by far the expectations of all, and was a grand feature of the encampment.”

Kalamazoo Gazette (Weekly Edition), August 27, 1886

Southwestern Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Reunion

The 18th Reunion of the Southwestern Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Association in August 1886 was a massive four-day series of events. Several thousand soldiers participated and tens of thousands turned out to watch the grand parade through the city, which was led by Professor Crossette’s new Kalamazoo City Band. Featured in the parade were nearly a dozen other bands from surrounding communities, including the Lawton Cornet Band, the Dowagiac Band, St. Joseph Brass Band, Schoolcraft Cornet Band, Marcellus Band, Hartford S.O.V. Drum Corps and the Wakeshma Band.

In October, Professor Crossette’s Kalamazoo City Band held its first indoor concert of the season at the Academy of Music to help raise funds for new uniforms. Sporting brand new dark blue uniforms with gold cord trim and white helmets, the Kalamazoo Band, assisted by several guest musicians from across the state, took part in the first annual encampment of the Knights of Pythias in June 1887.

“Prof. Crossette’s excellent band appeared in their new uniforms and rendered several selections in a manner that show the excellent training which they have had for the past few months.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, June 17, 1887

City Band Members (June 1887)

Kalamazoo Gazette, October 1, 1887.

Frank M. Crossett, leader
Joseph Spross, cornet
Fred Shoecraft, solo B-flat cornet
E. A. Bowers, B-flat cornet
Fred Davis, B-flat cornet
C. H. Ewers, B-flat cornet
Julius Martin, B-flat clarinet
James Zander, piccolo
Hiram W. “Hi” Ballou, 1st trombone
D. P. Jones, E-flat clarinet
Fred Brown, B-flat clarinet
Sam Born, solo E-flat alto
Fred Redmond, 1st E-flat alto
Henry J. Oswald, 2nd E-flat alto
W. Wesley Hodgeboom, 2nd B-flat trombone
John Leak, 2nd B-flat tenor
Oscar G. Clement, solo baritone
John Henson “Heinz” Everard, B-flat bass
James McGaw, E-flat bass
Nicholas W. “Nick” Hodgeboom, E-flat bass
John Vleiken, tenor drum
Fred Eldred, bass drum
J. Reed, drum major

Guest Musicians (June 1887)
Joseph Spross, Lansing, solo cornet
Julius Martin, Battle Creek, B-flat cornet
D. P. Jones, Ionia, E-flat cornet

“Where have the band concerts flown to?”

Frank Crossette petitioned the city in May 1887 to provide funding for a series of summer band concerts in Bronson Park. The request was denied, but Crossette gave the concerts anyway and thousands attended. Aside from these few performances and a “Grand Gift Concert” in July to again help raise funds for its members, the band had all but disappeared by season’s end. “Mr. Crossette, get the boys together and enliven the dried up city,” pled one disgruntled writer in the Kalamazoo Gazette. But after a free concert at Stern’s Clothing Store in October, it was clear that the band was finished and Crossette had returned to Constantine.

Kalamazoo City Band: 1888–1889

With Frank Crossette’s departure, it was clear that 1888 would be a difficult year for the Kalamazoo Band. But perhaps few would have realized exactly how difficult the coming two years would be.

“The Kalamazoo city band made a fine appearance and rendered the selections in excellent style. ”

Kalamazoo Gazette, June 8, 1888

Fred Shoecraft

In March, twelve members of the old band got together and (re)formed the Kalamazoo City Band with Fred Shoecraft, former leader of the Sturgis Band as managing director. Practices began and the band was hired to perform during afternoon exercises on Memorial Day in May.

City Band Members (March 1888)

Fred Shoecraft
Bert Sawyer
Fred Davis
George H. Skinkle
Oscar J. Clement
Hiram W. “Hi” Ballou
John Leak
Fred Redmond
Sam R. Born
Nicholas W. “Nick” Hodgeboom
John Vleiken
Fred Eldred

Len H. Salisbury

It became evident almost immediately that Shoecraft would not be leading the Kalamazoo band after all. Shoecraft married a young Sturgis woman in late May and returned to that city soon after to open a cigar factory and reorganize the band there.

Once again without a leader, some suggested Len H. Salisbury would be right for the job. Salisbury was then leading the Academy of Music Orchestra, and had previously fronted successful bands for fifteen years in New York, Detroit, and elsewhere. Unfortunately for Kalamazoo, more lucrative offers from Omaha and Des Moines enticed Salisbury to locate elsewhere.

Still without professional leadership, the Kalamazoo City Band forged ahead. The band fulfilled its obligation to play for the Memorial Day exercises in Bronson Park, and was featured along with the fireworks at an open air concert on the grounds of St. Augustine’s Church during the community-wide July Fourth celebration.

Louis F. Boos

In early August, the Kalamazoo City Band was again officially reorganized, this time under the leadership of Louis F. Boos, a well-known cornetist from Jackson. Boos was once a member of Patrick Gilmore’s Twenty-Second Infantry Regiment Band and became a highly acclaimed cornet soloist and music teacher.

“Detroit Journal: Kalamazoo can no longer be accused of being a city without a brass band. One has been organized there, with Prof. Boos, one of the best cornet players in the land, as its leader.”

Kalamazoo Telegraph, August 11, 1888

Members (August 1888)

Louis F. Boos, solo cornet and leader
William Kaiser, E flat clarinet
William Scholtzer, B flat clarinet
Chas. Gauit, piccolo
Fred Davis, first cornet
Bert Sawyer, second cornet
Sam R. Born, first alto
Henry Oswalt, second alto
Hiram W. “Hi” Ballou, first tenor
John Leak, second tenor
Oscar G. Clement, baritone
Nicholas W. “Nick” Hodgeboom, bass
Fred Eldred, bass drum
John Vleiken, snare drum

“Shall Kalamazoo Have a Band?”

As luck would have it, Boos didn’t stick around long either. No sooner had the announcement of his leadership of the Kalamazoo Band been made than Boos packed up his belongings and departed for Cleveland to lead a band there. And so it goes, Kalamazoo musicians again found themselves without a dedicated bandleader.

During the coming year, the Kalamazoo City Band (or whatever was left of it) was invited to participate in a band tournament in Schoolcraft along with twenty other bands, but after that one event, the City Band was nowhere to be found.

The local Fourth of July exercises in 1889 were to include Crossette’s Constantine Band, the Plainwell Juvenile Band, plus bands from Three Rivers and Oshtemo, but noticeably none from Kalamazoo. Fred Davis and the Clement brothers tried to reorganize the band during the fall of 1889; Oscar Clement even offered to give free concerts in Bronson Park if someone would pay for and construct a bandstand there. But nobody did, and by year’s end, the City Band was once again no more.

White’s Military Band, probably photographed by W.S. White between October 1889 and March 1890. (Director C.Z. Bronson: center w/ clarinet). History Room Photograph File P-478.
Wallace S. White, ca. 1880 History Room.

White’s Military Band: 1888–1893

By 1888, Kalamazoo’s musical landscape was beginning to appear rather bleak, leaving one embittered Gazette writer to wonder “why W.S. White don’t give the people of Kalamazoo the street band he told them he would.”

“Our own and only band — excepting the Salvation army tooters”

Being an accomplished musician himself, over the years, local photographer and merchant Wallace S. White occasionally dabbled in the second hand musical instrument trade and perhaps toyed with the idea of forming a military band. After putting together a successful six-piece dance orchestra with horn player William H. Marchant, and a rather impromptu brass band with members of the Marchant-led YMCA Orchestra and perhaps others from a local Odd Fellows (African American) orchestra, White kept his word and worked toward Kalamazoo’s next community military band.

A New Band

In July 1888, Wallace White announced the formation of his new amateur twelve-piece military band, which was made up “largely of members of the old band,” all of whom were said to be “experienced musicians” (Telegraph). The new band performed “choice selections in fine style” at Long Lake during an August encampment of the Peninsular Commandery, and “made a fine appearance and played well” during an early September excursion to Niles, where the band members “were complimented in that city for their appearance and music” (Telegraph). In October, White and his band took part a massive local political celebration, where they joined “a mammoth procession” of veterans, soldiers, dignitaries, and other bands in a grand parade through the streets of Kalamazoo.

Winter Rehearsals

The band spent the winter months of 1888–89 dutifully rehearsing in White’s photo studio on Main Street without making so much as a single public appearance. Come February, White’s outfit was elected the official band of Company C, 2nd Regiment, Michigan State Troops (Michigan National Guard), and was renamed White’s Light Guard Band.

“As the band is now they are a decided improvement to the band last year.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, February 24, 1889

White looked forward to a full schedule of holiday parades and summer concerts in Bronson Park, just like the ones that had attracted enormous crowds two years before, and he promised “some surprises” (Telegraph) as well. With uniforms from Crossette’s former City Band and instruments provided by White himself, White’s Military Band emerged from its winter sabbatical with an unremarkable performance on a “rainy and dismal” Memorial Day in May; a prophetic indicator, perhaps, of the difficult year that lay ahead.

“An enjoyable feature for the fourth of July celebration would be a band contest between the Salvation Army band and White’s 4 tune band.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, June 5, 1889

White’s “Four-Tuned” Band

Success did not come easy for White and his musicians. Ridiculed by the press as the “local ‘tune-less’ band” and embittered by the lack of community support for summer concerts and a public bandstand, White made very few appearances with his band, leaving the locals in dismay and both the courthouse lawn and Bronson Park concert-less and quiet.

“Let those harangues be stopped.”

By summer’s end, Wallace White had apparently had enough of the lackluster performances and bad press. Committed to creating a first-rate community band, White replaced “all the old kickers” on his roster with “good, reliable young men” (Telegraph) and enlisted local bandleader Chester Z. Bronson to lead the band and provide training for its members. As one reporter stated reassuringly, “Our motto, ‘no bums’ allowed. Our organization is young and advancing.” At thirty years of age, Bronson was a formally educated seasoned professional musician who had traveled extensively with many of the best bands in the business. Supporters knew that if anyone could make this less-than-perfect organization into a source of community pride, it was Chet Bronson.

By December, Bronson had already made significant progress with White’s perhaps underwhelming players. Under Bronson’s leadership, the band improved steadily throughout the winter and unlike the previous year, they sought work wherever possible; from masquerade balls to roller skating parties, just to gain more experience.

“White’s Light Guard band discoursed excellent music throughout the evening, under the leadership of Prof. Bronson.”

Kalamazoo Telegraph, December 5, 1889

“Already the results of the drilling of the new leader, Prof. Bronson, can be seen and in the near future this city will again have a band they can point to with pride.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, December 5, 1889

“Under the baton of Prof. Bronson”

By 1890, military band music had become more popular than ever. The famous bands of Gilmore and Sousa only fueled the public’s appetite for march music, and helped to pave the way for the many community bands that played it. Not only had White’s Military Band improved by this time, but the organization had managed to develop an enthusiastic local following.

In May, C.Z. Bronson left Kalamazoo to rejoin Wurzburg & Bronson’s Band in Grand Rapids for the summer (he would later join Sousa’s Band), leaving White’s 17-piece band under the direction of cornetist Derance “Deal” Richards. A long-awaited series of open-air summer concerts and special appearances followed. White’s Military Band would continue to perform locally and throughout Michigan for years to come.

Second Michigan Infantry Band (2nd Regiment Band, M.N.G.) IBEW

Second Regiment Band: 1893–1897

During the summer of 1893, White’s Military Band was once again inducted into active duty as the official band of the Michigan National Guard’s 2nd Infantry, and thereafter became known as the Second Regiment Band.

White’s Second Infantry Band (August 1893)

Kalamazoo Gazette, December 30, 1894

Derance “Deal” Richards, leader
F. M. Richardson, solo cornet
Peter Closterman, first cornet
Otto Schultz, piccolo
Fred Brown, second clarinet
Robert Kinsel, first clarinet
W.H. Cook, third clarinet
Will F. Shonk, solo alto horn
Fred Redmond, second alto horn
Wallace S. White, third alto horn
Hardy Hardella, first trombone
John Henson “Heinz” Everard, second trombone
Frank Newell, baritone horn
William McLaughlin, tuba
Nicholas W. “Nick” Hodgeboom, tuba
Joseph Wilbur, snare drum
Robert Simmons, bass drum

“Very Best in the State”

Wallace White stepped aside in 1893 to focus on his music store, while the band continued on under Deal Richards’ leadership to become “among the very best in the state” (Gazette). When Richards departed in mid-1894, Chester Bronson returned to Kalamazoo and took over management of the band. With Otto Schultz directing, Bronson promoted the Second Regiment Band extensively throughout Michigan for several years.

“The Second Regiment band, of eighteen pieces, gave a delightful program at Lake View Sunday. They say the crowd was nearly equal to that of July 4.”

Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, July 29, 1895

Second Regiment Band (August 1895)

C.Z. Bronson, clarinet, director
Otto Shultz, piccolo
Fred Redmond, alto
Will Shonk, alto
John Leak, alto
Hi Ballou, tenor
Charles Pool, tenor
Hardy Hardella, slide trombone
Sam Born, cornet
Fred Davis, cornet
C.M. Cook, clarinet
Bert Waldo, clarinet
John Vleiken, bass drum
Carl Catherman, snare drum
Geo. Lauraine, drum major

Additional musicians:
Fred Hayes (Coldwater), bass
C.G. Bodley (Three Rivers), cornet
C.J. Chall (Three Rivers), cornet
Sol Kline (Constantine), bass
Julius Martin (Battle Creek), clarinet
Gus Bucher (Battle Creek), cornet
Will Peters (Battle Creek), clarinet
C.F. Day (Detroit), clarinet
Carl Jones (Michigan City. IN), slide trombone
Fred Curtis (Michigan City. IN), clarinet
Neal Jersey (Saginaw), baritone

White’s “New” Military Band: 1896–1897

Given the significant regional success of the Second Regiment Band, and the immense popularity of band music in the wake of the 1893 World’s Fair, Wallace White stepped back in as a bandleader in 1896 and formed a new version of White’s Military Band. Pulling together some of the community’s most prominent musicians, plus several of the “old timers” from his previous band who were not active members of the Guard (Deal Richards, Frank Newell, Carl Catherman, John Everard, Oscar Clement, Eugene McElhany, et al), White’s new band quickly fell into the fold among the leading community music makers. Indeed, White’s (original) Military Band and its 1896 successor, plus the offshoot Second Regiment Band, would all dominate the local music scene for much of the decade.

Kalamazoo Harmonic Brass Band: 1894–1896


The Harmonic Brass Band of Kalamazoo, ca. 1894. Pictured: (standing L-R) C. H. Hill, A. Wlson, L. D. Bates, F. E. Wilson, H. H. Wilson, O. H. Stafford, (middle L-R) J. E. Harris, A. T. Hedgbeth, Wm. Steward, G. F. Hill, (front L-R) C. O. Bailiff, J. T. Pool. (not pictured: S. F. Liggins, J. Boyd, G. L. Phillips, S. C. Phillips, J. F. Phillips). Courtesy, Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections.

“A lawn social was held in the lawn in the rear of St. Augustine’s church last evening… Electric lights abounded in profusion and a display of fireworks was given to enliven the occasion. The new Harmonica band was present and discoursed excellent music during the evening.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 8, 1894

Organized on April 13, 1894, the Kalamazoo Harmonic Band (Harmonic Brass Band) was most likely an offshoot of (or a successor to) the Kalamazoo Cornet Band. Most of its seventeen members had been associated with other local bands and were well known musicians. The new outfit was managed by Frank E. Wilson, a local letter carrier and versitile musician, and directed by William H. Marchant, a longstanding local musician and member of White’s Military Band.

Emancipation Day

The Harmonic Band (occasionally called the “Harmonica Band,” although they were definitely not playing harminicas) made its debut on the first of August, 1894, during the annual Emancipation Day celebration in Kalamazoo; first sharing parade duties with White’s Military Band in the afternoon, and later taking center stage for an evening concert at Turn Verein Hall. By November, the band was able to secure new uniforms and showed them off proudly during a year-end concert at the G.A.R. Hall. (Many of the same musicians joined Joe, Sylvester and Gilmore Phillips of the popular Phillips Brothers’ Orchestra and formed the Philharmonic Orchestra, which began performing symphonic music in January.)

Harmonic Band Members (July 1894)

Frank E. Wilson, ca. 1894 WMU Archives.
W. H. Marchant, ca. 1896 Johns Hopkins University.

(* Musicians believed to be African American)
Frank E. Wilson*, manager
Charles O. Bailiff, secretary and treasurer
W. H. Marchant, musical director
Augustus T. Hedgbeth*
William M. Steward*
Sylvester F. Liggins*
Edward J. Harris*
Gilmore L. Phillips*
George H. Hill*
Hiram H. “Hi” Wilson*
Sylvester C. Phillips*
Levi D. Bates*
Joshua W. Phillips*
Oliver H. “Ollie” Stafford*
Arthur Wilson*
Charles H. Hill*
John T. Pool*
Jasper Boyd*

Additional members, March 1896
C. Z. Bronson, director
D. Stuart (possibly Enos Delbert Stewart*)
S. Scherer
Charles Pollard*
Harry Parks*
T. Stuart (possibly Thomas Stewart*)

“A Fine Musical Program”

The 1895 season saw the Harmonic Band performing for activities at the A.M.E. Church on North Pitcher Street in June, the Labor Day celebration in Hastings in September, and to Niles for an Odd Fellows reunion in late September. An 1896 benefit concert to raise money for new uniforms was directed by Kalamazoo’s master bandleader, C.Z. Bronson. The band appears to have remained active until about 1900.

Chamber of Commerce Band: 1898–1902

The last “great” local band of the nineteenth century was the Chamber of Commerce Band of Kalamazoo, formed in the early months of 1898 by C.Z. Bronson and the Reams brothers. With offices and a rehearsal space that occupied the entire third floor above the Reams Brothers’ Music Store, 154 South Burdick Street at Exchange Place, the Chamber of Commerce Band combined members of White’s Military Band and the Second Regiment Band into an all-star, 30-member mélange of Kalamazoo’s top musicians.

Ted D. Daken

Ted D. Daken, ca. 1903 Local History Room.

From its inception, the Chamber of Commerce Band was under the management of a colorful local character named Ted Daken, whose name could easily be associated with any number of activities. Daken worked for the Gazette and was later an independent printer. He was a bicycle fanatic who once took his “wheel” on a four hundred mile trek across northern Michigan and Canada (no small feat in the 1890s!). He was also an avid local baseball player and team manager, a theatrical performer, and a musician.

C.Z. Bronson, Director

The band was first organized by C.Z. Bronson as the Second Infantry Band (Second Regiment Band). Weekly rehearsals were held during the winter of 1897-98 above the Reams brothers’ store, with a goal “to give the people of Kalamazoo the highest class of band music and arouse a public spirit of pride” (Telegraph). By spring, the Chamber of Commerce had “expressed their approval of (the) movement” and the band was ready to make its first public appearance, an April 6th benefit performance for the Y.M.C.A. at the First Presbyterian Church.

Reams Brothers

Chet Bronson left Kalamazoo in late April to join the Great Wallace Shows, and turned directorship of the Chamber of Commerce Band over to Sylvester “Sylvo” Reams. Reams was a former member of the United States Marine Band in Chicago, and later one of the initial investors in the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. He was joined in the Chamber of Commerce Band by his brothers; J. “Jay” Reams, a piccolo player; and clarinetist Arthur Reams, proprietor of the Reams Brothers’ Music Store.

Members (May 1898)

Mr. Arnold, clarinet
Hiram W. “Hi” Ballou, trombone
Sherwin L. Blakeslee, trombone, alto
Sam R. Born, cornet
C.M. Cook, clarinet
Ted D. Daken, drum major
Fred Davis, cornet
Fred C. Day, clarinet
Frank Everett, bass
K. Faust, baritone, bass
George Golden, trombone, saxophone
H. Hardella, trombone
John Leak, alto
Peter C. Longjohn, bass
George Loveland, cornet
John McDermott, snare drum
Eugene C. McElhany, saxophone
Charles Poole, alto
Arthur Reams, clarinet, saxophone
J. “Jay” Reams, piccolo
Sylvester “Sylvo” Reams, solo saxophone
Fred Rebman, alto
Joe Salomon, piccolo
Gardia P. Simons, trombone
Lewis H. Simons, baritone
S. S. Scheidler, clarinet
Chris Scheir, cornet
Arthur Slocum, clarinet
Alfred Snuggs, clarinet
Mr. Strong, clarinet
Arthur Tong, bass drum
George Williams, cornet, assistant conductor

Additional members (August 1898)
Mr. Allen, clarinet
Mr. Cummings, clarinet
Frank Newell, trombone
Fred Roberts, cornet

Guest musicians (1899)
Edward B. Desenberg, xylophone soloist
Hazen and Harry Shannon, vocalists

Officers (April 1899)
Sylvester “Sylvo” Reams, conductor
Ted D. Daken, Manager
Fred W. Davis, secretary
Hardy Hardella, treasurer
Sam R. Born, leader, assistant conductor

“The debut Thursday night of the Chamber of Commerce band was a grand success. Thousands watched the parade and afterward listened to the fine concert in Bronson Park. Sylvo Reams demonstrated unmistakably his ability as a band leader. He has a good idea of music and the control of tempo and dynamics. It was not a case of thirty would-be soloists, but of a band of thirty playing in concert.”

Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, August 19, 1898

Chamber of Commerce Band Performances

The Kalamazoo Gazette called the Chamber of Commerce Band “one of the best military and concert bands in the state.” Existing contracts were to be filled by both of the former bands individually while the new band continued to rehearse throughout the summer.

A Fine Concert

On Thursday evening, August 18, 1898, it seemed that everyone in town was out to see and hear the new band make its public debut. Dressed in sharp new uniforms made locally by Henderson-Ames, the Chamber of Commerce Band assembled in front of the armory on North Burdick Street and marched southward, accompanied by “a vast crowd of pedestrians, carriages, and wheels.” After a brief serenade in front of the Chamber of Commerce office, the band proceeded to Bronson Park for an 8 pm concert performance. A crowd of 10,000 turned out to see the show.

Somber Strains of a Funeral March

In January 1899, Frank Henderson, founder of the Henderson-Ames Company, owner of Henderson Castle, and one of Kalamazoo’s most successful businessmen, passed away. The Chamber of Commerce Band led the procession to Mountain Home Cemetery following his funeral. A year later, the band was called upon to lead the funeral procession for one of its own; horn player Sherwin Blakeslee. In December 1902, the band again played the funeral march for local Civil War veteran, Henry J. Brownell.

Bronson Park showing the center fountain and original bandstand (looking east), c.1900. Kalamazoo Public Library postcard collection, uncataloged.

“In most cities bands are encouraged and paid liberally, but here it has been the hardest kind of work to keep a band together.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 19, 1891

“The running expenses of a band are by no means small, and it may interest some to know the music played during last evening’s concert cost exactly $22.75. This cannot be played time after time, or we will get to the same stage where we were some years ago when the band was known as K.F.T.B. (translated meaning ‘Kalamazoo Four Tune Band’). ~ Ted D. Daken, Mgr.”

Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, June 13, 1899

“Cost of a Concert”

Though highly successful in terms of attendance and popularity, the Chamber of Commerce Band struggled financially, just like the bands that had come before it. Hoping to secure a series of weekly summer concerts in Bronson Park, friends of the band formed a subscription group where some three hundred local merchants and business professionals were asked to contribute up to 50¢ each week to help offset expenses.

The band continued to improve, but ongoing financial trouble was taking its toll. Wherever the band played, enormous crowds gathered, but sponsorship was weak and although thousands attended the free concerts, they weren’t paying off for the otherwise professional musicians. After an entire summer of work, each member had earned just $2.40 — hardly adequate by any standard. In August 1899, Ted Daken parted ways with the band, leaving Hardy Hardella as manager.

Popular and Ragtime Music

Celebrating the community’s newly constructed bandstand in Bronson Park while giving in to audience demand for ragtime music, the 1899 series of concerts included guest performances by local musician and composer Edward B. Desenberg. Desenberg’s xylophone solos were tremendous favorites of local audiences at the time, and his own compositions drew great applause when performed by the Chamber of Commerce Band. A June performance in Bronson Park included Desenberg’s composition, “Kalamazoo, An Original Rag-Time Cake-Walk” (conducted by Desenberg himself), and a December performance at the Grand Opera House featured Desenberg’s newly penned “Youwanta March and Two-Step,” as arranged by Ellis Brooks.

Branding the Band

Cigars were big business in 1900; some 360,000 brands were available in the United States alone. In an interesting bit of cross-promotion, Martin Salomon & Company, a cigar manufacturing firm on North Burdick Street, began marketing its new “Chamber of Commerce Band” cigar brand in April 1900. (Joe Salomon was a member of the band.) The Salomon Company promoted its new cigar as “the best nickel cigar on the market,” and boldly claimed it to be the “official smoke” of the McKinley & Roosevelt administration, the official cigar of John Philip Sousa’s band, and even a favorite of the Boers in South Africa, or so they said.

Chamber of Commerce Band (early 1900)

Sylvo Reams, director, solo saxophone
Samuel R. Born, assistant director, cornet
John Leak, secretary, horn
H. H. Hardella, business manager, treasurer, trombone
Edward B. Desenberg, oboe
Jay Reams, piccolo
William Tyler, cornet
N. L. Abbott, cornet
F. Brown, E clarinet
F. A. Curtis, B clarinet
Charles Grundy, B clarinet
Fred Day, B clarinet
M. S. Arnold, B clarinet
C. M. Cook, B clarinet
J. Salomon, B clarinet
Edward L. Weinn, Eb horn
Charles Poole, Eb horn
Fred Redman, Eb horn
Gardie Simons, trombone
Frank Newell, trombone
H. Ballou, trombone
Lewis H. Simons, euphonium
George Golden, saxophone
Bert Waldo; bassoon
Frank Everett, bass
Peter C. Longjohn, bass, drum
J. C. Faust, bass, trombone
Lew Lawton, drum
Carl Catherman, drum

“Celery City is Without a Band”

The original band reached a performance peak in 1900, but called it quits in July of that year due to lack of funding. The band was soon reorganized as a more manageable group of about eighteen; all but six of whom were previous members. Ted Daken was back as president and Sylvo Reams was again director.


Chamber of Commerce Band (late 1900)

Chamber of Commerce Band (1902)

Ted D. Daken, president, drum major Sylvo Reams, director, saxophone
Sylvo Reams, director, solo saxophone Harry Parker, piccolo (KSO)
Jay Reams, piccolo Jay Reams, piccolo
Arthur Reams, Eb clarinet, saxophone Arthur Reams, clarinet
Fred C. Day, Bb clarinet Fred C. Day; clarinet
F. A. Curtis, Bb clarinet A. Hinrichs, clarinet
Samuel R. Born, solo cornet P. Michaud, clarinet
Fred Davis, solo cornet Samuel R. Born, cornet
 N.L. Abbott, first cornet  Joseph Chartrand, cornet
George Loveland, first cornet W.C. Peters, cornet
Levinus Born, Eb horn Levinus Born, horn
August Marks, Eb horn August Marks, horn
Edward L. Weinn, Eb horn William Shonk, horn
J.C. Faust, trombone Frank Benz, trombone
Frank Newell, trombone Frank Newell, trombone
Lewis H. Simons, euphonium Gardia P. Simons, trombone
Frank Everett, tuba Lewis H. Simons, euphonium
Peter C. Longjohn, drum Nicholas W. Hodgeboom, tuba
Joe Wilbur, drum Peter C. Longjohn, tuba
John Van Holt, drum
Joseph Wilbur, drum

“Meritorious Entertainment”

During 1901, the roster swelled to thirty members, including players from Wallace White’s former military band, the old Second Regiment Band, and the previous year’s Chamber of Commerce Band. The Kalamazoo Gazette proudly heralded the new band’s May performance as “meritorious entertainment… the finest musical entertainment by local talent ever given in Kalamazoo.” However, persistent financial problems forced the band to reorganize yet again in 1902, though this time with just nine of its original members. Still led by Reams, but without Daken, the Chamber of Commerce Band continued to perform through the summer of 1902 before ultimately disbanding for good by year’s end.

The End of an Era

Unidentified Kalamazoo Band, c. 1910. Kalamazoo Valley Museum Photograph File 99.10.1. Back row (L-R): Hiram Balou, baritone; Pete Dalenburg, trombone; Will Hawley, bass; Ellsman, bass; John Van Holt, alto; Jake Rons, drums; Pierce, concert horn. Middle row (L-R): A. Hughes, trombone; Stannard, cornet; Arnold VandePlassihe, cornet. Front row (L-R): Gus Ellis, clarinet; J. W. Sober, clarinet; G. Reed, clarinet; Loyd Manley, snare drum; Jake Smith, cornet (leader); Dingman Smith, valve trombone; Tisen, valve trombone.


20th Centrury Bands

Other bands came and went after the turn of the twentieth century, including the Elks Band, the H.O.H. Band (Holland Union Benevolent Association), the Kalamazoo Concert Band, the A.U.V. Band (Arbeiter Unterstutzungs Verein or German Workingmen’s Benevolent Association), the K.O.T.M. Band (Knights of the Maccabees), the American Legion Band, and the mammoth 136-member Kalamazoo Boys’ Band, directed by George B. Newell. But the “Golden Age” of the military bands had all but passed, and as musical tastes began to change, audiences became captivated by the latest popular musical trend: ragtime.

Newell’s College Band (Kalamazoo Boys’ Band), c.1905. George B. Newell, director. Author’s collection.


Continuing Research

Like many of our Local History essays, this article is by no means a definitive study; rather it may be viewed as a work-in-progress. If you have new information, corrections, or items to share, please contact the author or the Local History Room.

Written by Keith Howard, Kalamazoo Public Library Staff, 2010. Updated March 2012.



Kalamazoo 1894 Afro-American Journal and Directory

Afro-American Journal and Directory Publishing Company.
H 325.26 A258

Bands of America

Schwartz, Harry W.
(available via MeLCat)

Music in the United States: A Historical Introduction

Hitchcock, H. Wiley.
(available via MeLCat)

Pioneers in Brass

Bridges, Glenn D.
(available via MeLCat)

The Music Men : An Illustrated History of Brass Bands in America, 1800–1920

Hazen, Margaret Hindle and Robert M. Hazen.
789 H429


“Music Has Formed Important Part Since City Was Founded”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 16 June 1929

“The Golden Age of Brass”

(unattributed). “From the program notes for the Summit Records series of recordings The Golden Age of Brass.” Retrieved from, November 9, 2003


Band Music from the Civil War Era
Library of Congress collection features over 700 musical compositions, as well as 8 full-score modern editions and 19 recorded examples of brass band music in performance.

A History of the Wind Band by Dr. Stephen L. Rhodes  (Lipscomb University Department of Music)
Traces the history of the wind band movement from medieval Europe through 20th-century American school bands and their repertorie, including an excellent overview of 19th-centrury American wind bands.

Local History Room Files

History Room Subject File: Music.

Learn More

Related reading from Kalamazoo Public Library’s Local History essays.

A Bandstand in Bronson Park (1899–1909)

Exploring the origins of Kalamazoo’s first permanent municipal bandstand.

Chester Z. Bronson: Bandleader and Orchestra Director

Kalamazoo’s nationally famous bandleader and first director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.

William S. Bronson: Musician and Bandleader

Popular Kalamazoo bandleader and musician during the 1870s and 1880s.

Henderson-Ames Company: Regalia Makers

One of the country’s leading producers of band and military uniforms and regalia.

Wallace S. White: Photographer and Bandleader

Foremost among Kalamazoo’s many 19th century photographers, musicians and bandleaders.

Ragtime Kalamazoo (1895–1917)

A historic overview of the advent of ragtime, as seen from a local perspective.


“I wanted to tell you how I very much enjoyed your articles and research about the early bands in Kalamazoo! My husband’s grandmother, who is 95, was born in Sweet Township in Pipestone County. Her father was Robert Edison McGaw, and he was 1st cousins with Maggie McGaw Born and her brother James McGaw. I’m sure the surnames stand out to you, as Born and McGaw were members of the early bands in Kalamazoo. Had you not written your piece for the internet, I might have never learned this about our family history.” —Kim Gosnell, September 2011.

Share: Facebook Twitter