Medina Community Band
Conductors – Past and Present
(as of August 29, 2014)
The first director was a professional musician from Akron, a Professor Dustin Marble, hired to organize the band and teach the members. The band members purchased their own instruments and hired the Professor as an instructor and part-time director.
In July 1865, a number of energetic citizens united and organized a Cornet Band. The band was furnished with a full set of new instruments at the cost to the organization of $725. The cornets, at least, were silver coated, which lead to the name "Medina Silver Cornet Band."
The band was under the joint direction of Worden Babcock (pictured at left) of Medina and Professor Marble. Financial support came not only from admission to indoor concerts, but also from donations by individuals. For some reason, the band was not mentioned in 1868 or 1869 and the Lodi Cornet Band led Medina's 1869 Decoration Day parade. There was no organized Independence Day celebration of any kind reported in 1869.
Thereafter, the band performed the functions of a 'community band' at irregular intervals and in a variety of venues. Members of this version of the MSCB had only one holdover from the first band, their leader William F. Sipher (pictured at right). Musicians ranged in age from a 13-year-old cymbal player to a 60 year old baritone player, with most in their teens or 20s as in the first band. Unlike the first band, this group was mostly 'hard working mechanics' which typified town bands.
William Sipher was the band's director in 1870. Having emigrated from Germany, he was trained a shoe repairman; however, in attempting to make a living in Medina, then engaged in the manufacturing of bricks, producing half-a-million bricks a year. In the fall of 1863, he joined a company of National Guards who were called into active service in May 1864. They formed Company E. 166th O.V.I. and served until September. Sipher was chief musician in the regiment. In 1871, he was elected Corporation Treasurer for Medina. Sipher played bass in the Medina Silver Cornet Band prior to becoming conductor. It is also noted that he played 1st cornet in the band during the 1870s.
1876 - 1892
One Medina Village resident commanded enough respect for some aspects of his musical abilities to actually get paid for directing bands. Worden Babcock (pictured at left), a member of the first Medina Band, moved to Akron 1867 where three years later he developed an excellent 16-member Cornet Band that performed in Akron, Medina, and elsewhere. By June of 1877, Babcock was leading the Medina Cornet Band.
The year 1879 was the busiest, followed by a general decline in activity until the prolonged disorganization in the 1890s. The problem was probably a combination of changing leadership and disinterest among the players. Lansing B. Smith was designated leader at the 1878 reorganization, but Worden Babcock returned to Medina and the Band in May of 1879, and started a marble and granite works to earn a living. The Band was again reorganized in 1880 with Babcock, Lansing B. Smith and Alexander Gaberdiel designed as the leaders.
After the reorganization in 1882, Edward Welling (pictured at right) was designated the new leader. He moved to Medina Village from Brunswick Township in or after 1880 and played a leading part in Medina Village music for over ten years thereafter. The holdover of players was not great, with six of ten of the 1880 Band from the 1878 Band, and only four of ten of the 1882 Band from the 1880 Band. Members were almost entirely the “hard-working mechanics.”
The greatest change in the membership of the Band took place in August of 1886 under the direction of Edward Welling. The change was the addition of woodwinds, well, at least one piccolo and one clarinet. Membership in the Band was increased to 22. Technically the Band was no longer a brass band, but the old name (e.g., Medina Cornet Band and Medina G.A.R. Band) were still used.
The Citizens Band had been under the direction of Edward Welling (pictured at left). The Band had about one season of business as the Gazette had hoped, including a full summer season of the pleasant Tuesday evening concerts on the park, and music for the Republican campaign in October. Then the Band made a tactical error. They decided that the only way to keep up a band was to get new instruments, which they hadn’t had in 20 years. The citizenry did not see fit to come up with the $300 and the Band was not heard from again for five years.
The Gazette editorialized in 1899: What might be done to meet one of the town’s blushing needs? That Medina needs a band and needs it very much is certain! We are way behind the lighthouse when it comes to talking of band music. Seville, Wadsworth, and Chatham can all laugh at us here in the county seat. By June of 1899, Medina’s Comet Lodge No. 60 of the Knights of Pythias were talking of “organizing a band and insuring its support.” And so it came to pass that new band instruments were ordered and had arrived in early August. The new Band was out on a Saturday evening in mid-September to play “several pieces at the south-west corner of the Square.” Medina’s K of P Band, as it was now called, marched, played, and ate at one of the sponsor’s shindigs a month later.
The first K. of P. band director was William J. Wall (1899-1902 and 1904-March 1907 and pictured at right). He was a cornet player in the Band and worked as a druggist in the W.K. Albro store (corner of Washington and Court Streets) during his time with the band. He probably gave up leadership of the Band to study for the State of Ohio pharmacy examination, which he passed in 1908.
The age range of the 1899, 1901, and 1905 Bandsman was much greater than in any previous Medina Band. Several were over 60 and a few others were into their 40s. New occupations were evident as a result of technological advances. There was a telephone lineman, which sounds prosaic today, but which dealt with an industry less than 15 years old then. The drum major was an electrician. Medina’s electrical plant was no more than three to five years old at the time. In 1908, former Band Director William J. Wall was complimented on putting up a handsome new globe electric sign in from of his drugstore and the Gazette pledging to also erect electric illumination on the street. Albert Fretter opened an automobile garage in 1909.
Jacob H. White led the Band from January to November 1903, when Wall took the reins again. Paul H. Dillman (pictured at left), cornet player in the Band and an insurance agent in the village, directed the Band from March to October 1907. He resigned after this short stint to move to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
Stowell White (October 1907 to probably 1909 and 1913 to probably 1914 and pictured at right) played clarinet in the Band, was a machinist in 1910, a taxi driver, and a Village Marshall and night watchman in 1920.
Only one of the five band directors during the K. of P. era was a professional musician. Maynard England (1910-1912). He had spent five months in Paris studying music in 1908, accompanied by his Cleveland-based instructor. He became the second composer associated with the Band of whom we are aware. In 1911, he wrote a march (not named in the newspaper) dedicated to the Band. He presided as director until the end of the summer season of 1912, when he was booked for 12 Christmas engagements in New York state.
In December of 1910, Director England wrote a letter in the Medina Sentinel wondering if during the coming winter are we (the Band) to be dead to all this community? Are we to merely exist in the summer and in the winter to crawl into our hold like a bear, there to await the coming season? He answered his own question with three concerts early in 1911 held in the Baptist Church, but the only one scheduled for winter of 1912 was lost to a blizzard. One more was played in 1913, and that was it for winter concerts during the K. of P. era.
Reasons for the divorce of Band and the Knights of Pythias have not been found. In January, 1915, “at a meeting of the Medina Board of Trade … the report of the committee recommended that the Board become responsible for the local Band, formerly known as the K.P. Band, was accepted.” By April, all was settled. The Board had gotten by subscription from the villagers most of the necessary $550 for annual maintenance of the Band, and George M. Denton had been secured as Director for the “Medina Board of Trade Band.”
Local orchestras were being formed which played some of the winter concerts that the Band used to perform. George A. Offineer had recently reorganized an earlier orchestra of his and his 16 member Medina Concert Orchestra played in mid-December 1914 at the Princess Theater (north side of the square). Seven of those orchestra members were or had been members of the Medina K. of P. Band.
All was not always peaceful and serene in the good old days. As today’s Band must deal with trucks, traffic, and bikers, the Bands of past days had their problems as well. After George M. Denton, editor of the Sentinel, directed his first Medina Band concert in the park in 1915, the paper suggested that hereafter the ‘Ring around the posy’ boys and girls, who were having the time of their lives, not only hopping about, but yelling and making a great disturbance directly under the bandstand, could just as well be carried to another part of the park, thereby enabling the band to do better work and the listeners to more fully enjoy and appreciate the music. An extra large crowd turned out for a 1924 concert and the Band gave an entertainment that pleased all fortunate enough to get close enough to hear it.
Director George M. Denton wrote in 1915 that the attempt was made to present to the public each week a varied program of light and heavy numbers with a slight preponderance of the latter. This was attempted because … there seems to be a cultivated taste in Medina for good music, and because the director believes his musicians are capable of playing a heavier grade of music than they had been accustomed to playing. The message translates into the modern phrase ‘pushing the envelope,’ which Community Band Conductor Marcus Neiman uses occasionally as the Band struggles through a particularly difficult piece of new music.
The Board of Trade Band had six directors abetted by substitutes Fred Kelser (pictured at left) and Stowell White (pictured at right). First was George M. Denton (1915 – July 1916), editor of the Medina Sentinel from at least 1914 to 1932. In the 1920s, he played flute in and arranged some music for the Medina Community Orchestra. Ten years after his stint as band director, he was elected Mayor of Medina (1925-1929), under spending his opponent $7.40 to $10.50 or so, and in 1933 became a Medina County probate judge.
George A. Offineer (July 1916-August 1917) of Jeromesville (Ohio) had come to Medina from Lodi about 1907 as a “well-known” barber and five years later was hired by A.I. Root Company as a traveling salesman. He taught himself how to play cornet, which he did for a few years with the Band, plus piano and violin. An industrious fellow, he organized and led the two orchestras previously mentioned. As band director, he had done some arranging of music for them. He died at the age of 38, of a heart attack, four hours after directing a Saturday evening concert. The shortest tenure of this group of directors belongs to C.P. Draeger(August 1917-November 1917). He was assistant director at the time of Offineer’s death, and he temporarily led the Band until a new director was elected at the Band’s annual meeting.
The person so elected was Harry W. Lincoln (1917-1920 and pictured with cello at left), a garage foreman of Brunswick in 1920, who moved to Medina Village in 1922. He must have been a fine musician, as at one time he played clarinet in the pit orchestra at the Hippodrome Theatre in Cleveland, and played clarinet and cello solos at various functions during the 1920s and 1930s in and around Medina Village. He had another four-year hitch as Medina Band Director (1927-1930), played in various orchestras in the village, and took over the leadership of the Medina Symphony Orchestra in 1929 when founding director John Beck left Medina. Lincoln also manufactured cellos from a shop in his basement, and in 1917 started the Medina School of Music in the Broadway block wherein he, John Beck, and George M. Denton were three of the five instructors. The photo at left may have been taken at the Palace Theater or the Hippodrome Theater in Cleveland where we believe he played in the Cleveland Philharmonic under the direction of Johan Beck.
As active as Lincoln was, the next director, John F. Beck (1921-1925) (pictured at right) was even more so. A native of York Township in Medina County, Beck was pianist for the Princess Theatre in 1913, studied piano and organ at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, taught piano in Medina from 1915 to 1929, was organist and choir director for different churches in Medina, and played innumerable organ recitals all over the area. When he was selected to be director of the Medina Band, he was also director of two church choirs and the Medina Community Orchestra. The latter group became the Medina Symphony Orchestra and played in the village park on Sunday afternoons in the summer before crowds of up to 1,000 people, had many a winter concert series, and was one of the first Medina musical groups to be heard over Cleveland radio. In 1921, he also reintroduced one of the annual complimentary Band concerts in the summer to be played on other than a Saturday evening. All this occurred while he was director of music at Medina Senior High School. He resigned from Band leadership after the 1925 season. After rejecting several job offers, Beck finally left Medina for Euclid, Ohio, in 1929.
Stowell White substituted for John Beck for a week in 1921, and for a month or so during each of the next two summers. The latter were times when Beck was attending music summer school in Cincinnati. White was a jack-of-all-trades in his earning a living and his music. It was said that “he could fill in and be at home anywhere from director to playing most any instrument down to the bass drum. Fred Kelser, helped White out in 1923.
Lauren F. Wainwright (pictured at left), a U.S. Navy veteran of WWI and foreman of the Gazette mechanical department, rounded out the Board of Trade Band directors by assuming the task for 1926. He did a considerable amount of vocal solo work in and around the Village for the Medina Band and various churches, as well as directing church choirs. His experience with bands including having had distinct success with boys’ bands in four other localities, plus directing the Medina County Y.M.C.A. Boys’ Band from 1922 until it no longer appeared in the newspaper. For a time in the mid-1930s, he had an 11-piece German band for hire. Wainwright was elected to one term as Medina’s mayor in 1947.
1927 - 1943
Band directors during this era were Harry Lincoln and Fred W. Kelser (pictured at right). Lincoln, director of the Band of Trade Band from 1918 to 1921, had a four year hitch from 1927 to 1930. Fred Kelser did the honors from 1931 to 1937. Fred’s father, a minister, had moved his family to Medina County in 1905. Fred graduated from Otterbein College (Westerville, OH) with a degree in music, and taught at Carroll College in Helena (Montana) before being drafted in WWI. He played French horn in a military band with overseas service. Kelser sang many solos and duets, some with the Medina Band, and directed the Methodist Church choir for a few years.
While a proposal by Albert Fretter, in 1928, was made for sound amplification for the Band, nothing happened. While pleas from Band Director Kelser for a larger bandstand were unanswered, a separate podium was built for him to stand on and conduct the Band in 1933.
1944 - 1960
The activities of the first “modern” Medina Community Band began in 1943. The activities, leadership, and finances of the Medina Community Band (MCB) were very straightforward. Gone were the money-raising activities, the winter and out-of-town concerts, the Memorial Day parades or parades of any kind, the Band constitution, and elections of officers, the serenades, and political rallies. All that was left were the seven, usually eight concerts, to as many as 11 annual, free, open-air concerts in the uptown Park on weekends sometime during June, July, and August. The hour-long concerts started anywhere from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays from 1943 to 1951, and Fridays thereafter because the merchants had decided to keep their establishments open on Friday evenings instead of Saturday evenings as before.
Band directors during this period were all employees of the Medina Village/City School System, with all the background of schooling and directing that was necessary to obtain those jobs. They were paid for this extracurricular activity by the Band’s sponsor, at least after the Medina Chamber of Commerce became sponsor in 1946.
The first Band director of this era was Paul T. Wagner (pictured at left), supervisor of music in the Medina City Schools. Public schools referred to classroom teachers who taught band in more than one building (at more than one level) as “supervisors of music,” rather than band directors. Wagner directed in 1943, but enlisted in the Marines and reported for duty just before the 1944 concert season began. He served as a bandmaster at Parris Island, South Carolina, and later in Australia. After the war, he returned to Medina for one more year in the school system, this time as director of instrumental music, and as director of MCB (1946).
Fred Kelser (pictured at right), director of the Medina Band in the 1930s, filled in as MCB director in 1944, as well as bring principal for Medina City Schools’ Garfield Elementary (234 South Broadway Street). It should be understood that the Garfield Elementary Building was the first Medina High School. When the school district moved the high school to 144 North Broadway Street, the old high school became Garfield Elementary. When the school district moved the high school to 420 East Union Street, the old high school first became Medina Junior High School, then the County Administration Building.
With the director of the Band now being a faculty member for the Medina Schools, to the best of our knowledge, we believe that rehearsals were held in the music rooms (or band rooms) of the high school. For this era, that would mean that rehearsals were held in the High School (Garfield Building, 234 South Broadway Street) from the beginning of this era (1944) through 1956, when the high school then moved to 144 North Broadway Street. The Band rehearsed in the band room (and stage) in the 144 North Broadway Street building until the high school moved to 420 East Union Street in 1957. From 1957 to the end of this era (1960), rehearsals were held in the band room of the then senior high school at 420 East Union Street (now Claggett Building).
Pictured above is the Medina Community Band on a summer night in 1944 on the square in Medina. Picture courtesy of the late Julia Hatch. We assume that Fred Kelser is conducting the band.
The next director, Vance O’Donnell (pictured at left), served as director twice. The first time was in 1945, when he was supervisor of instrumental music for the Medina City Schools. He had gone to Wadsworth and taught in the Wadsworth City Schools, in a similar position in 1946 and returned to Medina in 1947 as head of the music department at Medina High School. O’Donnell then directed the MCB from 1947 through 1949, after which he moved to Alliance, Ohio, to become high school band director at Alliance High School.
Next came G. Gordon Ritter (1950 and 1951) who was hired in Medina as supervisor of instrumental music for the Medina City Schools. Ritter had ten years of experience in Ohio and Florida leading marching and concert bands and orchestras before coming to Medina. Ritter left the Medina City Schools to teach in Dover at Dover High School beginning in the year 1952.
Following Ritter’s short tenure as director of MCB was the much longer one of Richard N. Stacey (1952-1962). Stacey (pictured at right) was at one time a high school pupil of Ritter’s in Marietta, Ohio. Before being hired in Medina as supervisor of instrumental music, Stacey was director of music at Fredericktown, Ohio. It should be known that Stacey was the longest surviving director of MCB prior to Marcus Neiman becoming conductor. He became principal at Medina Junior High School in 1963, and relinquished the role as director of the MCB.
The first Band sponsor of this era was the Medina War Bond Committee. They were responsible for organizing whatever weekly program was to be in addition to or in place of the MCB. They were also the sponsor in 1944 and probably in 1945 as well, though corroboration of the latter has not been found. Programs included speeches about the patriotism of buying War Bonds, community singing led by Fred Kelser and assisted no end by song sheets passed out among the audience, plus outside musical combos such as the Sally West Trio from Cleveland and several aerial acts. Concerts, in addition to those of the MCB, were performed by the LeRoy Boy Scout Band (1943-45), the Liverpool High School Band (1944), directed by Donald Parfitt, and the Berea Community Band (in 1945).
Following Ritter’s short tenure was a much longer one of Richard N. Stacey(1952-1962). Stacey (pictured at right) was at one time a high school pupil of Ritter’s in Marietta, Ohio. Before being hired in Medina as supervisor of instrumental music, Stacey was director of music at Fredericktown, Ohio. He became principal at Medina Junior High School in 1963, and relinquished the role as director of the MCB. The last two years of Stacey’s MCB tenure, Medina Junior High School band director, James Staten directed the first half of the 1961-62 summer seasons while Stacey was at summer school in Columbus.
Medina High School band director Robert Dubbert led the MCB in 1963. Dubbert (pictured at left) was in Medina only for the 1962-63 school year.
Charles E. Carey (1964-1970), a fellow Ohio State University marching bandsman of Stacey’s, was hired in 1963 to direct the Medina High School Band and became the new director of the MCB in 1964. Carey (picture at right) had been an assistant director for seven years at Wilmington, Ohio before coming to Medina. In addition to directing, he played an occasional cornet, trombone, or euphonium solo or played in a trio or quartet with the Band. While his opinion of what music to play might not have been universally accepted, since he was the director, his opinion was what counted. In 1965, Carey had rehearsed the MCB in a couple of rock and roll numbers, “but decided against them for Band use. ‘The repetitious Beatle beat might put both the crowd and the Band members to sleep,’ he said.” Carey became very involved with the vocal program in the schools and production of various musicals, from which came many of the vocal solos with the MCB. This full schedule caused him to relinquish leadership of the MCB after the 1970 season.
Terry Puehler (pictured at left, provided by Pete Ulrich, former principal, Highland High School), a member of the Medina City Schools’ music faculty, directed MCB for the 1971 season. Puehler had played trombone solos with the Band as far back as 1958. All in all, the MCB seasons during the past era and into the new era, were like the weather of the times, pleasant, placid, and predictable. Following the 1971-72 school year, Puehler resigned his position as head band director at Medina High School to take the position as head band director at Highland High School (Highland Local Schools).
Walter Bixler, (directing MCB on Friday, June 26th, 1970 – at right) was an instrumental music teacher at Medina Junior High School and taught in the various Medina elementary schools. He directed the MCB during the summer of 1972. Bixler had played cornet in the Band from 1963 to about 1971 with an occasional solo along the way. He directed the band a few times when a substitute was needed for the regular director.
Marcus Neiman (pictured at left) was hired to replace Terry Puehler as Medina’s high school band director in August of 1972. At his interview, he was informed by the Superintendent of Schools for Medina City Schools that “part of your high school responsibilities would be to conduct the Medina Community Band Friday nights, June through the end of July in the summer. Payment, $300 for the season, would be paid by the concert sponsors.” Neiman’s first season as director of MCB would be the 1973 summer concert season.
The first two years under Neiman’s leadership were much like the previous 24 years. Rehearsals were held in Medina High School band room (420 East Union Street) and began a week or two prior to the start of the first concert in June. Concerts were held every Friday evening, beginning at 8:30 p.m. and continuing for about an hour, on the concrete bandstand located on the north side of the Medina Public Square, June through the end of July.
Walter Bixler (conducting rehearsal at right), conducted MCB the summer between Puehler’s departure and Neiman’s arrival. Puehler, as stated above, resigned following the 1971-72 school year and was not employed by Medina City Schools during the summer of 1972. Neiman was not hired until August of 1972 and did not conduct his first summer season until 1973. Bixler was featured in an article which appeared on Friday, June 26th, 1970, in the Akron Beacon Journal. The article indicated that rehearsals, at least during this era took place on Thursday evenings prior to the Friday concert. Bixler said that “you never know from week to week if you’ll have the right number or the right kind of instruments.” At least on that night, there were enough tubas, put no piccolo.
Marcus Neiman (pictured at left) made the decision to resign from his position as director of bands for the Medina High School to accept the position of fine arts consultant for the Medina County Schools Board of Education (now called the Medina County Schools Educational Service Center) in the Spring of 1980. His new position would permit him to supervise arts (visual arts and music) teachers and county fine arts programs in the four local school districts (Black River, Buckeye, Cloverleaf, and Highland) and serve as a consultant, when needed, to the three city school districts (Brunswick, Medina, and Wadsworth). Neiman made the decision to continue to conduct the community band, thus being the first conductor of the Band since the early 1940s who was not employed as a band director for the Medina City Schools.
Conductors of the Medina Community Band – By Year
1865 – 1870 – Dustin Marble and Worden Babcock
1870 – 1876 – William F. Sipher
1877 – Worden Babcock
1878 – Lansing B. Smith
1879 – Worden Babcock
1880 – 1881 – Worden Babcock, Lansing B. Smith, and Alexander Gaberdiel
1881 – 1882 - Edward Welling
1899 – 1902
1903 – Jacob H. White (January to November)
1903 – Paul H. Dillman (March through October)
1904 – 1907 – William J. Wall
1907 – 1909 – Stowell White
1910 – 1912 – Maynard England
1913 – 1914 – Stowell White
1914 – 1916 – George M. Denton, Fred Kelser, and Stowell White
1916 – 1917 – George A. Offineer (July 1916 through August 1917)
1917 – C.P. Draeger
1918 – 1920 – Harry W. Lincoln
1921 – 1925 – John F. Beck
1926 – Lauren F. Wainwright
1927 – 1930 – Harry W. Lincoln
1931 – 1937 – Fred W. Kelser
1943 – Paul T. Wagner
1944 – Fred W. Kelser
1945 – Vance O’Donnell
1946 – Paul T. Wagner
1947 – 1949 – Vance O’Donnell
1950 – 1951 – G. Gordon Ritter
1952 – 1962 – Richard N. Stacey
1962 – 1963 – Robert Dubbert
1964 – 1970 – Charles E. Carey
1971 – Terry Puehler
1972 – Walter Bixler
1973 – Present - Marcus L. Neiman
2010 – 2012 – Curtis Amerin, assisting
2012 – 2014 – Edward Lichtenberg and Thomas Walker, assisting
2014 – Present – Frank Cosenza, assisting
* From David M. Van Doren, Jr. history of the Medina Community band, edited by Marcus Neiman on August 29, 2014