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Holiday Concert with the Lawrence City Band

Get in the tinseling and latke-making mood with the Lawrence City Band on Saturday, DEC 9 from 3–4 PM in the Auditorium.

The Lawrence City Band began as a pioneer band in 1854. The band is still popular today, producing weekly summer concert series.

City Band History
SOURCE: Kenneth Spencer Research Library

In 1854, sponsored by the anti-slavery Emigrant Aid Society, numerous pioneers left their homes in New England to establish the Kansas Territory. Four members of the Savage family brought musical horn instruments along on the journey, and formed one of the earliest Kansas bands. The band originated on the train ride to the Kansas Territory, with Frank Savage as the first conductor of the band. It was at this time that the popular poem by John Greenleaf Whittier was turned into the song, “The Kansas Emigrant,” which the band played regularly on the passage.

Once in Kansas, the band continued to play at special occasions, such as weddings, funerals, or gatherings. During the Lawrence Massacre in August, 1863, three members of the band were killed. About a year later, the existing band members, including Savage, formally established the town band, although the group operated as a military unit. There has continuously been an official town band in Lawrence ever since.

The band began hosting regular outdoor concerts around the turn of the century. In 1906, Buch’s Military Band (as the band was called), gave a special concert for then vice-presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt at Lawrence’s Santa Fe Train Station. The event raised enough funds for a gazebo to be built in Lawrence’s South Park. Shortly after this, the band was disbanded and taken up by the Haskell, Lawrence High School, and University of Kansas bands.

In 1964, Charlie Kassinger, the high school’s band director, reorganized the Lawrence City Band. Like today, the band comprised of Lawrence locals, rather than students. During Kassinger’s time, the first established “Summer Concert Series” were held in different parks in Lawrence. However, when Conductor William Kelly took over in 1969, he quickly established the South Park Gazebo as the only location for the concerts, which remains in effect today.

In 1992, Robert Foster took over the role of conductor and soon implemented the first recordkeeping procedures of the band, including filing yearly notebooks made up of rosters, printed programs, and newsprint. Today, the band is comprised of forty-five players, with room for fifteen extra players at a given concert. The band continues to play in the South Park Gazebo weekly during the summer season.


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