Series: Town Bands


For Iowans around the turn of the last century, band concerts were extremely popular. Throughout the summer, most town bands gave weekly performances on Saturday afternoons or weekday evenings, drawing large crowds from the town and surrounding countryside. Many towns built bandstands (see the Bandstand Series) to feature their bands. The regular concerts were supported by subscriptions purchased by local citizens or by local merchants who hoped to realize increased trade from the concert crowds.

For those bands that remained active throughout the year, winter concerts were often performed indoors at the local opera house. The bands charged admission with individual ticket prices usually ranging from 10 to 35 cents. When attendance was good, bands might earn $25 to $75 in an evening. In the era of unpaved roads, however, newspapers frequently cited poor attendance due to rain and muddy roads.

Finally, music was seen as an important complement to many other kinds of events. Consequently, the town band played a supporting role by providing music at events for which the band was not the main attraction. These might include commencement exercises, temperance meetings, baseball games, carnivals, fairs, circuses, and traveling medicine shows.

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