On the Road Again…. Early Travels
June 5, 2018
The Municipal Band has done a remarkable amount of traveling during its history, much of it in the first few decades of its existence. These travels have taken it all over the Commonwealth of Virginia and to many other locations throughout the Midwest and Southern United States. By some estimates, the Band has traveled well over 100,000 miles since its founding – an average of nearly 1,100 miles every year, quite an achievement for a volunteer organization whose members spent – and still spend – much of their time working, raising families and pursuing other activities in addition to music.
Even more remarkable in terms of the Band’s early travels is the fact that going anywhere in the 1920s, 30s and 40s was often a major undertaking. Automobiles were just starting to become common in the 1920s and roads were often poor. Almost all long-distance travel was done by train, powered by coal-burning steam engines. And air travel as we know it today didn’t yet exist! For the Municipal Band to journey more than a few miles outside of Charlottesville was truly a lengthy adventure that required a lot of planning, stamina and time.
One of the Band’s earliest civic duties was serving as the official band for the Charlottesville Volunteer Fire Company, and starting in 1923 the Band traveled with our local volunteer fire fighters each summer for 60 years to participate in the annual convention of the Virginia State Volunteer Firemen’s Association. These meetings took the Band all over Virginia, from Norfolk and Virginia Beach in the east to Roanoke and Bristol in the west and from Alexandria in the north to Danville in the south and many points in between. At these conventions the Band both marched in parades and competed in concert competitions, frequently winning cash prizes and trophies.
The Band also traveled outside the state during its early years. A number of these trips came about as the result of the Band’s being named the official band of the Virginia Division of the United Confederate Veterans Association, which held annual meetings all across the Southern United States. Despite the difficulties of travel to and from these events, the Band consistently won accolades for its performances at these conventions, which took the Band as far west as Memphis, TN, and Dallas, TX, as well as to Tampa, FL, and other major cities across the South.
In addition to the above, in its early years the Band also performed in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Charlotte and Washington, D.C., as well as Richmond and elsewhere. During its many trips by train, the Band often would give short impromptu concerts on the platforms of various towns when their train stopped for coal or water, delighting their listeners and promoting the businesses and culture of their Charlottesville hometown.
Every journey begins with a single step, says the old proverb. So what was the Band’s very first trip outside the city limits of Charlottesville? That short journey took place on June 21, 1923, just two and a half months after the Band’s first public appearance. On that day the Band came to beautiful Crozet, VA, performing for a community picnic celebration in Rosenkran’s Grove, not far from today’s Claudius Crozet Park. The Band was delighted to perform for the citizens of Crozet all those years ago and it looks forward to many more trips far and near, as we approach our 100th year!