Dixon Municipal Band
Cathy L James - Webmaster

As was the case all over the nation in the 19th century, various drum corps, cornet
bands, saxhorn bands, and mandolin clubs furnished music for the entertainment
of the public. As early as 1851, the first year of publication of the Dixon
Telegraph, we read of the formation of a band, to be sponsored by donations.

"Band Concerts" as we know them today began with the formation of the
Henderson (later Watson-Plummer) Shoe Co. Band in the late 1880s. While  the
company provided substantial financial support for the band, citizens were
nevertheless regularly admonished that the band's continued existence depended
also on their donations.

At the turn of the 20th century Dixon was fortunate to have a husband-and-wife
team, Will H. and Louise Smith, who were professional music teachers and
composers out of their Northside home. "Professor" Smith was instrumental (pun
intended) in putting together several dance orchestras and concert bands over
his many decades in the music performance business. His Brass and Reed Band
became so popular that a small bandstand was built on the Court House lawn to
accommodate them.

Smith was also the leader of the Dixon Marine Band, which became the Moose
Band, which in 1918 became the first organization to go by the name of Dixon
Municipal Band.  Like all its predecessors, however, it depended on corporate
and private, not public, funding.  It was this early Dixon Municipal Band that
established the tradition of formal outdoor band concerts, alternating between
John Dixon Park and the Nachusa House.  Its first concert was held on Friday,
June 7, 1918, and the program consisted of these pieces:

                  Invercargill March......Alex Lithgow
                  First Brigade March......A. F. Weldon
                  Tantic Overture......George D. Barnard
                  Over There......George M. Cohan
                  Evening Shadows......Karl L. King
                  Sally Trombone.....Henry Fillmore
                  National Overture......C. L. Barnhouse
                  Stars and Stripes Forever......John Philip Sousa

According to the newspaper, "The evening attracted a large crowd and was
thoroughly enjoyed by all."

In 1921 Iowa bandmaster and composer Karl L. King lobbied the state
Legislature to pass the Municipal Band Law, giving small towns the legal right to
levy a tax to support local concert bands. This idea spread rapidly, and in 1931 a
successful local referendum enabled a permanent Dixon Municipal Band,
sometimes referred to in the day as the Dixon Civic Band. Its first director was
Charles B. Price, who has been followed by a succession of notable conductors
down to the present day:

                                  Russell Mason   1933
                                  W. Harold Flamm   1934
                                  Ned T. Smith   1935
                                  Orville Westgor   1937
                                  Earl Senneff   1946
                                  Robert L. L'Heureux   1955
                                  Thomas Whitcombe   1985
                                  Kent Nightlinger   1990
                                  Mark Bressler   2007
                                  Mark Dempsey   2018
Brass And Reed Band 1890
Sanborn Map Showing Band Stand
Dixon Drum Corps 1896
Dixon Marine Band 1906
Dixon Marine Band on Parade 1923
Dixon Civic Band 1933
Dixon Civic Band on Parade 1935
Band Shell 1955
Dixon Municipal Band on Parade 1965
Dixon YMCA Band 1926
Dixon Civic Band 1932
From James Higby

The Dixon Band Shell in Page Park was designed by architect John McLane,
Sr., and was completed in 1955 at a cost of $15,600. McLane took this photo
shortly afterward.

A note that accompanies this photo indicates that the shell comprises 1350

square feet. The Illinois Central railroad trestle can be seen in the background.
During our concerts back in the day, the trains would often come through just
when the band was playing pianissimo.
Document from the basement of the Bardell Bowman home at 606 S. Peoria.
Program brochure from a benefit concert given in 1955 to raise funds for a Dixon
Band Shell. Bob L'Heureux  Director.

It was a joint concert by the Dixon Municipal Band and the Dixon High School
Band and they even had a bass saxophone! That huge instrument rested on a
little dolly with casters made especially for it.

The concert was a success, as the shell was erected in Page Park shortly
Story of the Band Shell
Cathy L James - Webmaster