Ames Municipal Band

The Ames Cornet Band, organized in 1877, is the earliest documented predecessor of the Ames Municipal Band.  It was organized under the guidance of David N. Maxwell (father of long time city clerk and official Ames historian, A.B. Maxwell).  All in this early group played instruments with upright bells, even the cornets.  At first there were no clarinets or trombones.  If those early instruments could be seen today, they would be considered curiosities and relics fit for a museum.  The first clarinets were of natural wood color.  There were valve trombones, but no saxophones or helicon double bass instruments.

The band boys held weekly practicies, but were handicapped by a lack of musical knowledge.  Great efforts were expended in getting musical numbers presentation ready.  It is said that during winter months progress was slow, but each spring as business interests quickened, the boys began their practices.  The all volunteer group was held together by their love of music and the pleasure of playing.  One of the first public performances was in Jefferson, Iowa.

A ladies band which was very popular in the community was also organized by Dr. Maxwell.  That group climaxed its career by giving a concert in the town opera house and armory, later occupied by the O'Neil Dairy Company.

The Ames Times, April 28, 1910

WHY NOT A BAND - The opening of spring (if it really has opened) brings to mind the promis of the business men given last year to the Civic Improvement club to organize a band if the club would erect a band stand.  The band stand was erected last year according to agreement.  Now it is up to the men to get busy.  There is nothing that adds more pleasure to a town in the summer time than a good band organization.  The success of the band concerts a few years ago showed that people will come from far and wide to a band concert and what is the use of our young people going to Nevada and Story City when they could just as well hear a better band in Ames.

Beginning in 1910, regular performances were being held in the park now known as Bandshell Park.  In 1924, the group known as the Ames Municipal Band, supported by a tax levy, was created.  It was incorporated in 1925 as a separate organization under City government with elected officers.  The purpose was to provide concerts for the people of the community; to be ready at all times to furnish music for civic and community activities; to co-operate with the school and playground musical activities for the training of Ames youth; and to provide a place where instrumental musicians may continue their musical training.

Weekly concerts during the summer feature a varied repertoire of band music interspersed with numbers by singers and dancers as well as instrumental soloists.  Band members traditionally have participated in the annual Memorial Day ceremonies at the Ames Municipal Cemetery, and in the past have marched in the Fourth of July parade.

In the present Band Shell Park there was once a small circular bandstand.  The band gave 6 to 8 concerts there in the middle to late 1920s.  My first experience with the Ames band was in 1928 when I played in the band under the direction of Oscar Hatch Hawley, who also directed the I. State College Band.  I directed the Ames band the next year which was 1929.

In 1930 Mr. Clate Chenette was hired as the full time director of the band.  With the exception of September, which was a vacation month, Mr. Chenette held the band together for the entire year, rehearsing regularly all during the winter months and usually giving an indoor concert or so during that time.

As I recall, rehearsals at that time were held in the council chamber of the Ames City Hall and later at the American Legion Hall.  A satisfactory place to rehearse was always a problem for bands of this era.

Where there are musicians they invariably get together to make music of some kind.  So it was that in the early years of Ames from 1964 onward, Ames had various and sundry musical groups sometimes in the form of an orchestra, but more commonly a small brass band, performing upon request for the various political and patriotic events during the year.  In those days there were seldom regularly employed directors.  One of their own number was usually chosen by the group to serve in this capacity.

R. Day

Directors of the Ames Municipal Band

Ed Chenette
George Bortner
Professor Lamb
Jean Chenette
D.S. Jeffers
A.R. Lauer
Professor Stearns
Charles Bushman
Oscar Hatch Hawley - Directed from 1920? to 1929?
David N. Maxwell - Directed in 1931
Clate Chenette- Directed from 1931-1942
Richard D. Day - Directed in 1929 and from 1942-1971, band member from 1927 to 1971
Milton A. Trexel - Directed 1972-1976, band member from 1954 to 1976
Homer Gartz - Directed 1977-2002, band member from 1969 to 2002
Michael Golem - Started in 2003