Band History

A Brief History of Wadsworth Community Bands

Compiled by Dr. Caesar A. Carrino, a Wadsworth native and Mayor of Wadsworth from 2000-2004

Wadsworth has a long romance with band music, starting in 1845 when the first Wadsworth Union Band was organized.

While it continued for several years, the band finally fell into silence only to be reorganized in 1881 as an arm of the Grand Army of Republic organization that had formed earlier. Because of its affiliation with the G.A.R, it was appropriately named the Grand Army Band and bore the uniforms of the G.A.R It met on the second floor of the Town Hall with L. S. Gilbert, Director. The members were all men and the selection of instruments was limited: five cornets and one drum accompanied two alto voices, two tenor voices, one baritone and two bass voices. Music was in large part patriotic with selections reminiscent of pervious wars, especially the Civil War.

The band grew in number and popularity to the extent that the community decided it needed a professional director. Mr. D. Marble of Akron was selected because he had organized many bands during the Civil War and had made an admirable reputation for himself.

So many were the invitations to perform that the band purchased a band wagon to take the men from town to town. Later, the village built a wooden bandstand on the site of the parade field [military drill area] now know as the east park. Without any major disruptions, the band performed until the mid-forties and then no longer existed. It began to weaken when World War I broke out and men were called to military service, but continued nonetheless with what members were remaining, mostly older men. The same was true during World War II.

After World War II, there was a resurgence of the band with Floyd Prince as the director. Prince was part owner of the Prince-Keller-Koon Hardware store on the west side of Main Street and was a trumpet player by profession. Many of the men who had been discharged from service came back to participate and to recapture the thrill of associating with something other than war. By this time, some women were involved, albeit few.

The Wadsworth High School music program reflected the love for music and bands and even had an orchestra. During the latter part of the 1930's Mr. E. K. Bennett was the director. His innovation of permitting girls in the band was met with suspicion as well as with pride. The first two girls to play in the Wadsworth High School band were Marjorie Huffman [Neiser] and Martha Rayne [Weyrick].

In early 1916, Andrea Arrizzola founded a band comprised of a group of Italian men who sought to continue the love of music they brought from Italy. Forty members were in the initial ranks - all musicians ranging from amateurs to professional. The Ohio Match Company purchased their instruments for $585.00. They played for weddings, funerals and even marched in some of the parades, but their main focus was personal entertainment.

Andrea Arrizzolla was followed by Giuseppe Bongiorno, known throughout the community as Joe Gooday, a direct translation of his name from Italian. His music was respected but his desire to maintain the original group caused the band to dwindle as the men succumbed to old age and death. The band was no longer in existence by the early 1940's; however, some of the musicians lived into their 90's and played privately in each other's homes.

In the late 1970's and early 1980's Wadsworth joined forces with the village of Clinton to form the Wadsworth-Clinton Community Band. Under the direction of Art Ulmer, the band played concerts on many summer evenings in downtown Wadsworth in the park by the gazebo. The street was blocked off and hundreds of people brought their lawn chairs to enjoy an evening of band music while socializing with friends and family.

With the world moving at a faster pace and with television as a competitor, the community band as a focus of entertainment all but ended in Wadsworth. Since the early 80's, Wadsworth had not had a community band until 2004, when it was organized by Dr. William I. Bauer, a faculty member at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a Wadsworth native. The new Wadsworth Community Band played its first concert on June 24, 2004 in OJ Work Auditorium.

In September, 2013, the baton was passed to Pat Santelli, former Director of Bands for Norton City Schools. Mr. Santelli offers his conducting and teaching skills to band members at each Thursday night rehearsal.