A Brief History of the Band

Compiled by Richard Lindner


In pioneer 1855, the Gate City Band was organized. Herman Rohweder and George Story played with this band in 1857, and also played as a violin and harp duo at dances and receptions. In the fall of 1857, Rohweder organized his own band, the Germania Band, which not only gave a series of local park concerts but filled engagements in neighboring states.

"Band Gave Early Musical Fame to City"

"The Germania Band, into which the Gate City Brass Band , organized in 1855, was merged in 1857, with Herman Rohweder as its leader, is shown in this picture, taken at the Turnerfest parade in front of Philharmonic Hall, where the Red Men’s wigwam now stands. The band grew in strength and influence until it enjoyed not only a local reputation and was known throughout the entire northwest, filling engagements in many other cities."


"David Fakler, a former mayor of Winona, who had offered to direct a band for the Musical-Literary Society, did organize a brass band for summer concerts. Perhaps in an attempt to follow Carl Ruggles’ path to success, he called his group the Y.M.C.A. Band of Winona…The Fakler band concerts were a fine success during the summer of 1908, and drew large audiences at the levee park…" [Saecker, pp 36-37]



According to Jan Saecker, in her Carl Ruggles in Winona, 1967, the Minnesota Legislature authorized cities the size of Winona to appropriate up to $1,500 for the formation of municipal bands in early 1909. In the discussions that followed, because the Winona Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Carl Ruggles had made an excellent impression on the community, a Reverend Borncamp, representing the orchestra board, presented the idea of using the orchestra for a series of ten concerts. The orchestra would be augmented by the addition of the [commercial] Gate City band. Obviously then, the Gate City band still existed in 1909.

According to Saecker, it appears then that there were no concerts in that summer of 1909. Further notes indicate that there were no concerts at the levee and that even the Opera House had closed because of the "scorching weather". But there was agreement to begin discussion for the following year.

The city council was to discuss the budget on October 3, 1910. And it seems that the only important part of the discussion – the only part of interest to the community – was the matter of the band appropriation.

Saecker goes on to report, "A commercial musical group, the twenty-piece Gate City band, responded to the general enthusiasm for summer band concerts by sending a separate communication to the city council in advance of the meeting. They offered to provide ten concerts the following summer (1910) for $850, and sent representatives to the meeting." [p. 113]

As it turned out, two motions were presented – one for $1000 and one for $750. Both were defeated and it appears again as though there were no concerts in 1910.


November 23, 1911

John Philip Sousa brought his sixty-piece band to the Opera House for a concert.

May 27, 1915

On this date the first band meeting was held. George A. Colburn was named the first director on July 3, 1915, and the first band concert was presented at Levee Park on July 31, 1915.

Sept 14, 1916

Winona Municipal Band concert at 3 PM directed by George A. Colburn

On September 26, 1916, the Winona Municipal Band played for the opening of the Republican campaign when Warren G. Harding spoke at the Winona Opera House.


July 30, 1918

"Band Concert on Wednesday"

The director is listed as Emile Michaux. (So far, I have found nothing about this person except that in 1921, he is listed in the Winona City Directory with his wife Jeanne. He is listed as "musician" residing at 876 W. 7th Street.

The following accompanies the article about the concert. It is humorous now but obviously was a problem then!

"New Automobile Parking Plan will be inaugurated by the Police."

"…No automobiles, it is stated, will be permitted to move around during the program, but they will be assigned places where they can be parked, affording both good hearing and a good view of the band. Those arriving first will get the best locations…"


O. W. Reese became the Director in 1920. (Reese and Christiansen owned furniture store at 169-173 E. Third St…they divorced their wives and re-married each other’s wives.)

June 14, 1924

The Band Shell in Lake Park was dedicated June 14, 1924. A picture captioned (in hand) "New Band Shell Dedicated June 15, 1924. Then directly below the picture, "Presented to Winona by Fred S. Bell June 14, 1924. According to Gladys DeLano, the shell was built by Herman Seidlitz who also built the Winona Junior High School. Seidlitz later merged with Earl Schwab and then ultimately became Schwab Construction which still exists today.

May 28, 1932

Senior Municipal Band in Natty New Uniforms

Attired in natty new white uniforms and black knee boots, the Senior Municipal Band will make its first formal appearance as an official city organization. The uniforms consist of the knee boots, white knee breeches, white shirts, black berets, black ties and black belts.


Mr. Reese is still the director and a "parade band" is formed. An article notes that members of the regular band would b "called out" as needed and "…only so often as the band budget warrants…". Another interesting tale of this year’s events, according to Gladys DeLano, is that a Mr. Schreiber took over the band after Reese’s death in early 1940. That summer, Schreiber dedicated a piece to Reese and had the questionable taste to choose, "Ma, He’s Makin’ Eyes At Me".

July 9, 1987

A Tribute to Frank Cofield – Richard Lindner, director.