|DIXON MUNICIPAL BAND - A BRIEF HISTORY
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
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
Jon P James 2019
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
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
May 25, 1973
Article by Tom Shaw
"I have played in the Dixon Municipal Band for nearly 60 years, but my arthritis
has gotten so bad that I can't even hold my clarinet. It just slips out of my
Harold R. Boyer, 74, 312 Central Pl., began his long musical service to Dixon at
the age of 10, when he began taking clarinet lessons. He was prompted to
take the lessons by Rufus Slothower , father of Dixon's then-Mayor Bill
After five years of instruction from professor Will H. Smith, Boyer and about 20
local musicians formed Local 525 of the American Federation of Musicians.
Boyer was a charter member of the union, is a life member, and served as its
president for 38 years.
He remembers that the band, in its early days, was referred to as a
pick-up-band. Whenever the town needed music, the men would get together
whatever talent was available and turn out for the occasion.
Decoration Day was always the biggest time for the band, and Boyer said that
this was one of the times when they would really be playing "to beat the
band." Boyer is very proud of the fact that he had never missed playing in a
single Memorial Dy parade. However, he did remember one time in his youth
when he was having different thoughts about marching in the parade,
something his father always insisted on. He thought though that a little
fishing might be more interesting, and besides, his dad wouldn't know
because he would be working at his machine shop.
His final decision, however, was to march, and it was a good thing he did. As
the band neared the cemetery, he noticed his father hidden in a tree,
watching for him. That was the last time he ever gave a second thought to
missing a Memorial Day parade, until two years ago, when his legs, due to the
arthritis, would not allow him to march.
He remembers another Decoration Day when it was snowing, sleeting and
raining all at the same time. He said that the band marched to the cemetery,
played the Star Spangled Banner, and then marched right home, as they were
the only ones out that day. He also remembers the $40 damage to his
instrument caused by the bad weather.
There were many great events which Boyer remembers playing for, two of the
most memorable being the celebrations at the end of both world wars.
Boyer said that the band used to support itself on donations the members
could solicit from the townspeople. Then, just after the second World
War,Dixon enacted a Municipal Band Tax. At that time the municipal band had
members from other towns. Since the band was now going to be supported by
the Dixon taxpayers,Boyer said that there was an effort to solicit new
members only from Dixon, when possible. This was accomplished by taking
the better high school musicians and getting them to join the band.
Boyer feels that many of the men that conducted the band while he was a
member were truly great men. Will H. Smith, Ned Smith, Theldon Myers, Earl
Sennef, a Mr. Price, Orville Westgor, and Robert L'Heureux had at one time or
another been his conductor.
The city band was not the only group for which Boyer performed. He played in
the Dixon Symphony Orchestra, and spent many years playing for the Ashton,
Franklin Grove, and Sterling bands.
When asked about his preferences of types of music, he was very direct in
answering that he loved classical, and old-time dance music. He cared very
little, to put it mildly, for jazz and rock-and-roll. "I was taught to read music and
fake nothing. I think modern music is a farce."
Boyer worked at the Freeman Shoe Company for 50 years. He retired from the
company with no pension. He lives with his sister, Helen C. Moore; owns his
own home; supports himself on social security,and tries to walk uptown each
afternoon for a beer.
His other hobby besides music is collecting bottles and Toby mugs. His entire
house is merely a showcase for his impressive collection of every kind of
bottle and mug one could imagine.
Harold Boyer is one of Dixon's spirited elderly residents with, as he puts it,
"enough memories for you and me to write a book about."
August 14, 1974
Harry Hintz - the Big Man with the Big Horn-will be honored
at 8 p.m. Thursday at the weekly concert presented by the
Dixon Municipal Band. Hintz plays tuba in the Dixon
Band-in fact, he has been playing tuba in the Dion Band
for 70 years, He is not retiring from music-just being
honored for his accomplishments.
Rober L. L'Heureux, director of the Dixon Municipal Band,
has prepared a special program of selections to honor
Hintz, amazing career. This will not come as a surprise to
Hintz, for he and members of the band had to rehearse the
program on Monday night. This will be an occasion for
friends, and fellow musicians, to greet Hintz and thank him
for his dedication and service to the City of Dixon.
Harry Hintz has performed just about every style of musical
composition created since 1905-the year he was
introduced to the tuba and band performances. His first
encounter was with the Dixon Boys' Marine Band. He has
been a regular member of the Dixon, DeKalb, Mt.Morris
and Rochelle Bands, He performed with the Clyde Beatty
and the Christiani circus bands, and played under the
direction of the great Merle Evans, as well as the
renowned composer-conductor J. J. Richards.
Each year he takes his tuba to Sarasota, Fla., for an
action-packed "vacation" performance schedule that
begins in early fall and ends in late spring.
Mayor Warren Walder issued the following statement: "For
this outstanding gentleman, for his remarkable career
musical career, and especially for his dedication to the City
of Dixon.I feel that we should all proclaim that Thursday,
Aug. 15, 1974, is Harry Hintz Day in Dixon."
DIXON BAND SHELL THURSDAY, 8 P.M.
Robert L. L'Heureux, Conductor
Thomas Whitcombe, Announcer
Special Concert: Dedication to Harry Hintz
Big Man with the Big Horn
The Man Among Men - March ......... Henry Fillmor
William Tell-Overture ....................... Rossini
Home Town Band ............................ Arr. Erik Leidzen
Concerto for Trombone and Band .... N. Rimsky-Korsakov
Here's That Rainy Day ...................... Arr. Dr. Pursley
Trombone Soloist: Dr. Wilber Pursley, Professor of Music,
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb
Jubilee-Concert March ....................... George Kenny
Model "T" .......................................... Sammy Nestico
Gaslight Gaieties .............................. James D. Ployhar
When You're Away ........................... Victor Herbert
Stout Hearted Men ............................ Sigmund Romberg
Tenor Soloist: Pete Moore
Them Basses-March ..........................G. H. Huffine
Greetings to Harry Hintz - Conductor L'Heureux
Solace (Mexican Serenade) .............. Scott Joplin
The Entertainer ................................. Scott Joplin
Prestissimo-Galop ............................ Karl L. King
Sarasota-March ............................... Karl L. King
The Star Spangled Banner ............... Francis Scott Key
|Robert L. L'Heureux came to Dixon to
teach band at the high school level in
the 1949-1950 school year, a position
he would hold until 1980. A consummate
trombonist, he joined the Dixon
Municipal Band first as a musician and
then succeeded Earl Senneff as its
Director in 1955. L'Heureux (pronounced
Laroo) was the first to lead the band in
the brand-new bandshell.
- photo courtesy Lee County Historical
and Genealogical Society, provided by