The Municipal Band of Charlottesville, Virginia, was organized on August 21, 1922 through the efforts of two of Charlottesville’s leading citizens, Sol Kaufman and Edward A. Joachim and with the cooperation of several civic organizations. Its first public parade and concert occurred on April 10, 1923 on Main Street in downtown Charlottesville. At a concert presented in Lee Park, near the present Downtown Mall, on May 28, 1923 under the direction of the Band’s first conductor, Harry Lowe, Sol Kaufman, the Band’s first president, formally awarded control of the Band to the City of Charlottesville with the admonition to City officials that it was now the responsibility of the City to support the Band and see that it survived. Survive it did! It is now one of the oldest continuously operating amateur community bands in the United States.
The Band is funded by grants and generous donations from community organizations and individuals as well as by local government. It is governed by a seven member Board of Directors elected each year by the players in the Band. Board officers include a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. The Band’s Music Director and the Manager of the Municipal Arts Center attend Board meetings as ex officio non-voting members. Various ad hoc committees and work groups from the membership assist with concert logistics, publicity, fund raising, social activities and other duties associated with the operation of the Band and Municipal Arts Center.
Over the years membership has grown from the original thirty men to about ninety men and women of all ages and professions. Among its members are architects, secretaries, bankers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, librarians, business people, homemakers, construction workers, accountants, musicians, students and retired persons to name just a few. Women were first admitted to the Band in 1957 and currently make up about a third of the total members of the organization. The Municipal Band welcomes performers on all band instruments insofar as it can while maintaining instrumental balance and high standards of musicianship. Student musicians in the eighth grade or higher may be admitted upon the recommendation and sponsorship of their music instructor. If you are interested in joining the Band, please contact the Music Director.
For many years the Band had no home of its own, rehearsing wherever space could be found. Then with generous funding from community members, Band members, benefit dances and concerts, and grants from foundations and businesses, the Band was able to purchase land on 5th Street and erect what is now known as the Municipal Arts Center. The Municipal Arts Center, which was dedicated in September 2000, is now the permanent home of the Band, used for rehearsing, meeting and storage of its music library and equipment. Space is also available for other community arts, business and civic groups to rent as needed.
The Band’s musicians rehearse or perform nearly every Tuesday night throughout the year. The Band performs ten to fifteen concerts a year, including six concerts in Downtown Charlottesville during the summer season, as well as annual Christmas, Spring and Fall concerts. Each year the Band also performs on July 4th for the Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. All concerts are open to the public at no charge, the Band’s gift of music to the City and County and their citizens which generously support it. A variety of pieces from the Band’s extensive library is presented at every concert, including marches, classical transcriptions, Broadway show tunes, folk music, contemporary works, light opera and hits from the big band era. Special themed concerts featuring film music, music for children of all ages, and featured special guest performers and soloists from the Band are also frequent features of Municipal Band concerts. The Band also supports several small group ensembles which perform regularly throughout the area, bringing music to schools, community groups, children’s organizations, retirement communities and other venues at which the full Band would not be appropriate.
During its existence the Band has traveled over one hundred thousand miles throughout the eastern and southern United States. Reunions of Civil War veterans from both the North and the South were a prominent feature of public life in the United States in the 1920s and the 1930s and as the former official band of the Virginia Division of the United Confederate Veterans, the Band took part in their annual reunions during that time. It was also the band for the Charlottesville Volunteer Fire Company for many years, marching with the Company and performing at its annual conventions across the state. During that time, the Band won many awards and trophies for its performances. The Band has also served as honor guard for three Virginia governors and has played for seven Presidents of the United States, as well as for the Queen of England upon the occasion of her visit during the United States Bicentennial in 1976.
The Band has had the pleasure of seven music directors including Harry Lowe, Ernest Carr, Emil Rada, Marlin Brown, Sharon Hoose, James Simmons and Steve Layman.