HISTORY OF THE WINFIELD MUNICIPAL BAND

 

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In addition to its outstanding public school music program, Winfield has had a number of other community traditions in music. One of these, the Winfield Municipal Band, is even older than public school music. The first band organized in Winfield was called "The Silver Cornet Band" and performed its first concert as a part of the centennial celebration in Winfield in 1876. (Ref. 1) Community bands were very popular across the country at that time. As a general rule, they were all-male and all-brass. Many were modeled after the military bands of the time and many were named "The Silver Cornet Band." (About 75 years later, two prominent Winfield music directors (to remain unnamed) were overheard referring to such a group jokingly as “The Silver Bugle and Bicycle Corps.”)


There were several bands around Winfield during the period from 1876 to 1889. They included the Sunflower Band, the Walnut Valley Band, the Citizens' Band, and the Alton Military Band. These were all short-lived organizations.


In 1889, a local Winfield business man named Harry Caton organized a band he called "Caton's Dozen". Caton solicited funds from local businesses to support the band by bringing to their attention the fact that when the band played a concert in the park, people came from all around the surrounding area and spent a lot of money at the local stores while in Winfield. Caton eventually managed to hire W. H. Camon of Wellington to direct the band for thirty dollars a month. The band was incorporated under the name "The Camon Military Band Association" and it retained that title until it became the Winfield Band in 1908. During this period, the director, W. H. Camon, was also a professor at the Winfield College of Music. The Camon Band played weekly concerts in Winfield and did an annual mid-winter concert. The band traveled several times to perform in Kansas City, Chicago, Texas, and Louisiana. In August of 1903, a tragic event occurred during a weekly band concert at the corner of 9th Ave. and Main Street. A deranged man by the name of Gilbert Twigg got out a 16 gauge shotgun and fired repeatedly into the crowd. Nine people were killed and 25 wounded before the man was killed. Local citizens were somewhat nervous about attending band concerts for some time after the incident.


In June, 1910 the Winfield band played its first concert in a new band shell which the band had built in Island Park. Funds for the band shell were obtained partly from the Chamber of Commerce and partly from admissions for concerts. At this first concert, there were over a thousand paid admissions.


In 1919, the band committee of the Chamber of Commerce (including Harry Caton) reorganized and secured Frank McLean as director. McLean remained as director of the Winfield Band until 1922 when C. O. Brown was hired.

C. O. Brown directed the Winfield Municipal Band for twenty years, from 1922 to 1942 (except for an absence during 1928). He came to Winfield to accept a position as Supervisor of the Music Department at Southwestern College. Mr. Brown's musical endeavors soon came to include church choirs, a church orchestra, a "Legion Drum Corps.", a "Southwestern Girl's Drum Corps.", a high school orchestra, the beginning of a high school band, and the Winfield Municipal Band.

 

 

CO_BROWN

C. O. Brown 1922

C. O. Brown is credited for much of the Winfield Municipal Band's success. Brown and the band became widely known around the state and, in 1923, the band won first prize at a state band contest held in Lyons, Kansas. Brown frequently organized combined bands made up of bands from several communities. At the 38th Annual Chautauqua Assembly in 1924, Brown conducted a 100-piece "inter-city band" composed of the Winfield band and those from Arkansas City, Wellington, and Conway Springs.

In the 1928-1929 period, C. O. Brown was in Charlotte, North Carolina but returned to Winfield and continued directing the Winfield Municipal Band until 1942. Two "fill-in" directors kept the band going during the latter part of World War II. Clifford Barnhart directed for 2 years and Ross Williams directed for one year.


In 1946, Creston Klingman who was Southwestern College Band Director, took over the direction of the municipal band. Traditional concerts in the park were continued weekly during the summers.


In 1951, Richard Brummett directed the band for one summer until Delbert Johnson arrived in the fall and became director of the band until 1963. Johnson was an outstanding trumpet player who had played with such famous dance band leaders as Woody Hermann. He was also an outstanding band director. During Johnson's tenure, the band supported the local chamber of commerce during the winter of 1953 by presenting concerts in all of the surrounding small towns, including Oxford, Udall, Burden, Moline, Grenola, Dexter, and Atlanta. Summer concerts in the Memorial Park continued each year.

Delbert Johnson 1962

When Johnson left in 1963, ultimately to take a position of music director at a Lutheran College in Missouri, Earl Dungan became director until 1973. Dungan had been Winfield High School music director in the 1947-51 period. Following Dungan were Stan Reimer, Wayne Tucker, and Frank Johnson.


The Winfield Municipal Band is one of the few community bands that survived the World War II period. Because of the men being gone to war and because of financial difficulties, most bands of the 1920's and 1930's were gone by 1945. There were two primary reasons for the Winfield band's survival. First, during WWII, the members absent due to military duty were effectively replaced by high school students and women. After the war, the band continued to make heavy use of capable students and female musicians. The combination of these sources of members made the right mix to keep a well-balanced band going. Secondly, the Winfield band was one of few which were actually included in the city budget. Although small, the budget allowed for paying a director and even a small amount to members for their service. The band hall above the city utilities garage was provided free of charge. The music library of the band was enormous since it had been building since 1908. All these factors combined to allow the continuation of the Winfield Municipal Band to the present time. In recent years, the band changed the location of its summer concerts from Memorial Park to Baden Square at 8th Ave. and College St. The former St. John’s College property there was taken over by the City of Winfield several years ago.

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL HISTORICAL PICTURES