History of the Salisbury Band
The Lakeville-Salisbury Band was formed in 1928 by Harry Eggleston, who was associated with several earlier bands. At that time, almost every town in the region had its own marching band, and they were the only public source of live music and one of the main forms of community entertainment. The first members were men and young boys who wore white shirts, dark pants, and gray jackets. The band performed concerts playing overtures and orchestral music and appeared on the green in front of the White Hart Inn in Salisbury and at the state hospital in Wingdale, New York, among other places. Participating in the Memorial Day parade in Salisbury has been a tradition since 1931, and by the mid-1930s the band had grown to about 30 members. To accommodate local performances for the community, the band built its own traditional New England bandstand at the Lakeville ball field during the 1940s. It is only fitting that the Band’s 75th Anniversary took place there.
After Harry Eggleston turned in his baton in the late 1940s, there were thoughts of disbanding, and after discussion, William Meder, then Housatonic Valley Regional High School’s music teacher, took up the baton of band director. He encouraged young high school musicians and women to join the band and the band flourished under his direction. In the mid-1950s it was decided to obtain new uniforms, and the band performed a Uniform Drive Concert. The snazzy new uniforms were black, red, and gold, and charter member Jim DuBois remarked that “they were fancy enough, but boy, were they hot! We looked good, but we sure sweated a lot!”
Majorettes and baton twirlers were soon added to the ranks of the band. Gloria Meder, Bill’s wife, coached the majorettes. The band began marching with the Lakeville Hose Company and still continues to march with them today. William Meder retired after directing the band for 20 years, and during the 1970s there were several different directors of the band. Bonnie Whalen was the coach of the majorettes in the 1970s and 1980s.
Lee Collins, a local music teacher, took up the directorship of the band in 1980. New uniforms were added—white pants and shirt, bow tie and a jaunty boater. The following year red vests were added to the uniform and are still worn today. The Band rehearsed in the Congregational Church in the early 1980s and then moved to the Scoville Memorial Library, where they continue to meet. In talking about the band, Lee Collins said that “it is one of the few activities that is completely cross-generational. We are unique. There isn’t a band like us. We are the only concert and marching town band in the area.” Most marching bands these days are drum and bugle corps, but the Salisbury Band keeps alive the tradition of the New England town band.
A small band of members came together to play at area carol sings, and in 1981 the Salisbury Band Christmas Brass & Hot Chocolate Society was organized. Their distinctive red and gold striped scarves helped to keep the hardy brass players warm during the outside events. Today the Christmas Brass & Hot Chocolate Society continues to perform at local tree lightings and nursing homes.
In 1982 the Lakeville-Salisbury Band formally became the Salisbury Band. We celebrated 55 years of spirited band music in 1983 with Salisbury Band Day and Jim DuBois Day, when past band members were invited to come and celebrate this occasion.
A group of older musicians formed the Salisbury Band Senior Quick-Step Hot Shots in 1983 to continue the playing season into the fall. The music (not the players) is loud, fast, and fairly loose! Adorned in spiffy red and white striped jackets, the “Hot Shots” played at gatherings at the Town Grove, private parties, and the Salisbury Fall Festival. Past venues include the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the pavilion in Bridgewater, Connecticut, and the bandstand in Thomaston, Connecticut. They still perform at the Salisbury Fall Festival and the local Crop Walk. You might hear the Hot Shots play a college song from your alma mater, a polka, or a few Dixieland numbers!
By the mid-’80s the Salisbury Band had grown to 55 members strong. In 1988, the Salisbury Band celebrated its 60th anniversary and received letters of recognition from Governor William O’Neil, U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker, and President Ronald Reagan.
The Hot Shots played a special surprise concert in 1990 for Jim DuBois’ 80th birthday. They rode the train and then went to the Town Grove for a party, where they performed.
Lee Collins once remarked about the longevity of the Salisbury Band, “The Salisbury Band has survived the Depression, World War II, television, boom boxes, MTV, and the Walkman.” The Salisbury Band has marched in countless parades in Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. Parades that stand out in our memories are the Chatham, New York, parade that was split in half by a train. “We stood there counting the cars of the train, as they rumbled past. I think that we counted to 99 or 100!” recalls Catie Aakjar, current Chairman of the Salisbury Band.
The band participated in Cornwall’s 250th anniversary celebration, marching in a huge parade and presenting a concert in 1990. The band also marched in Salisbury’s 250th anniversary parade in 1991. The former players with the band hail from all over Litchfield County and beyond: Salisbury, Cornwall, Kent, Sharon, Falls Village, North Canaan, Litchfield, New Milford, Torrington, Sheffield, Amenia, and Millerton.
When Lee Collins retired in 1995, Scott Heth became the band director. He has continued the band’s tradition of providing an arena for local musicians of all abilities and ages to play band music for the enjoyment of everyone. Milo Freeland Day in Canaan was a special event the band was a part of in 1996. The band always starts its season at Geer Memorial in Canaan on Mother’s Day. Several other events such as The Community Picnic at Noble Horizons, the 4th of July Celebration at the Town Grove and Canaan Railroad Days are the high notes of the band’s performance year.
The Salisbury Band most often marches for the Lakeville Hose Company, but will march for other fire companies if the schedule permits. The band marches parades and performs concerts with the full range of musical instruments: trumpets, piccolos, flutes, saxophones, clarinets, trombones, baritones, French horns, and percussion.
In 1999 the “Salisbury Silks,” a flag team, was organized by Wendy Rineer to spin flags while the band plays its lively marches. It encourages young people who do not play instruments to be involved with the band.
This past year, the Salisbury Band marched in a parade in Norfolk, Connecticut, which celebrated the Norfolk Volunteer Fire Department’s 100th anniversary. The Band also performs concerts at Music Mountain in Falls Village.
In 75 years, the Salisbury Band has endured many changes, yet the tradition continues. We look forward to our centennial and to many more years of thrilling audiences on the street and on the green.
In Appreciation of Jim DuBois
Talk about dedication! Jim and Olive DuBois will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary this October 16, and Jim has played in the Salisbury Band for 75 years. Jim is a charter member of the Salisbury Band and has been playing the drums since its inception in 1928. He has contributed to the Band in every way imaginable, from setting up and contracting for the band’s appearances to recruiting new members and driving the bus to get the Band to its engagements, not to mention playing the drums at all events. He can tell of endless adventures the Band has had, from the crisis when the Band had no director to bus breakdowns halfway up Smith Hill. Prior to the formation of the Salisbury Band, Jim played fife for the Salisbury American Legion Band, and he is also an accomplished harmonica player. Although Jim no longer marches with the Band, he played snare drum with the Band during the entire grueling six-hour recording session when they made their 75th-year CD, and he has a brief cameo on the CD.
For 25 years until his retirement in 1975, Jim was the head custodian at Salisbury Central School, where he helped oversee the construction of the upper building. Jim was an active member of the Lakeville Hose Company for 24 years and has been an honorary member for the past 26 years. For years Jim and his wife Olive had legendary “end of summer” and Halloween parties for the kids in town. Jim has likely recruited more young members for the Band over its 75 years than any other person affiliated with the Band. He has always been very devoted to the young members of the Band. He fondly tells of taking a young clarinet player from Canaan to Winsted for weekly lessons because the family did not have an automobile. He has encouraged and helped numerous young percussion players join and become part of the band over these 75 years. It was because of his devotion to the young musicians that he recently suggested the Band start a separate fund to gather contributions and support young players in the Northwest Corner. The fund’s intention is to encourage musical skills and interest young people in playing band instruments. The fund is appropriately enough named The Salisbury Band’s James DuBois Music Enrichment Fund. Jim DuBois is without doubt the most senior member of the band as well as its biggest fan, and the band was invited to his 80th birthday and his 60th wedding anniversary party. Jim actively serves on the Band’s Board. Asked why he has stuck with the band all these years, he answered, “I never left town. Really, I just enjoy it!”
Update to the Original History, July 16th, 2016
Scott Heth’s increasing duties as head of Audubon Sharon led him to resign as director in 2009. His replacement was Friso Hermans, a music teacher and band director in Connecticut Region 12. As a resident of Bridgewater Friso had a long ride every week, and as an accomplished string player and vocalist he brought new perspectives to the Band. But the times, they were a’changing. Fire companies began to question the wisdom of having to organize the personnel and stand the expenses involved in an annual carnival, which is always at the mercy of a week of bad weather. Carnivals and the accompanying parades began to disappear from the schedule. And as the number of parades dropped from year to year, so did the Band’s income from them. Another change: in these years the number of young people in the Band began to decline. Real efforts were made to attract students from schools in the area, but with little success. It was heartening, however, to see families playing in the Band. Adults who played in the Band brought their children and relatives into the ranks, and they provided new life to the group. When Friso made a career move to another school system, we continued the tradition of hiring a school band director to lead us. David Gaedeke, recently retired from North Canaan Elementary School, took up the baton in 2014 and brings his experience, dedication, and quick wit to the Band. In 2015 the Band reluctantly decided not to continue marching in firemen’s parades. The number of members who were able and/or willing to march was dwindling, and rather than appearing at a parade with too few players, we just stopped marching. We are still on the street, however, in Salisbury’s Memorial Day parade and cemetery observance. The Salisbury Band Senior QuickStep HotShots deserve mention. In the mid-1980s Lee Collins organized a few Band members to play background music at local outdoor events. The music (though certainly not the players) was loud and fast. They are still at it, and band music is alive and well in the northwest corner of Connecticut.