History of the WBA

The time was Spring, the year 1937. An idea, long discussed by state band directors, became a reality. On May 16, 1937 an organizational meeting was held in Fond du Lac, a constitution drafted and accepted, officers elected and provisions made for the incorporation of the new association under State law.

It was the opinion of the charter members that the Association should be strictly a "professional" organization, and to that end the following objectives were incorporated into the constitution: "whole-hearted cooperation with the American Bandmasters' Association in all of its objectives and undertakings; mutual helpfulness and the promotion of the best interests of the Band in all its functions; to strive for peace, harmony, goodwill and cooperation between all locals of the American Federation of Musicians, community bands, concert bands, and school bands: cooperation with the Wisconsin School Music Association in all of it's efforts for the building of bands and the advancement of band music; and to encourage patronage of and cooperation with Wisconsin music merchandise firms."

Active membership in the Association is confined to those actually engaged in directing bands in Wisconsin and presupposes "a fair knowledge of music, theory, band instrumentation, band scoring and literature; recognized ability as a conductor and high standard of professional ethics." Any outstanding bandmaster, musician or patron who has contributed in a noteworthy manner to the advancement of bands or band literature may be elected to Honorary Membership and only Wisconsin music firms may become Associate Members.

The first WBA convention took place in Kohler, September 25-26, 1937 with Henry Winsauer as host and Edgar Zobel (Ripon), president. Walter Kohler was the guest of honor and banquet speaker. The evening concert was performed by the Kohler Band with 17 charter members serving as guest conductors. The Appleton Post-Crescent of Friday, September 24, 1937 noted thet "E.C. Moore, director Lawrence College and Appleton Jr. High Bands, would leave on Saturday to attend the convention of the new Wisconsin Bandmasters' and conduct the Kohler Band." The inaugural convention received lengthy press coverage in the Sheboygan Press with a review headlined "Distinguished Bandmasters Present Excellent Concert at Kohler Village." The premier performance of W.B.A. March, now known as America On Guard, composed by Ernest Weber (Waupaca) and Theodore Steinmetz (Hartford) was noted for its "lively measures." At this convention ladies were invited to all events except for the business meeting!

Because of WWII, no conventions were held in the Fall of 1942 and Spring of 1943. From 1946 to 1972 Fall meetings were held in Milwaukee on Thursday evening of Wisconsin Education Association conventions. After 1972 the Fall meeting moved to Madison to become a social event during the Wisconsin Music Educators Convention (now Wisconsin Music Educators Association) conventions.

The Golden Anniversary of WBA was celebrated in Fond du Lac in Spring 1987. President Lewis Schmidt (Elkhart Lake) inducted the first woman band director, Donna Wirth (Kiel) to the WBA ranks. Host Ray Wifler (Fond du Lac), conducted the community band.

Twenty-five years later the Diamond Anniversary sparkled with the premiere of the WBA commissioned suite composed by Rick Kirby. Kohler and Fond du Lac with Richard Tengowski, host, and David Pelow (Gillett), president, were the convention sites in April and July for a wonderful 75th year.

1937 Charter Members

Joseph Bergeim, Milwaukee

Norman Brahmstedt, Milwaukee

Roy Brendel, Wauwatosa

Raymond Dvorak, Madison

Alex Enna, West DePere

Joseph Gigante, Milwaukee

Harvey Krueger, Milwaukee

Frank Mayr, Grafton

S.E. Mear, Whitewater

Peter Michelsen, Stevens Point

E.C. Moore, Appleton

Ervin Sartell, Janesville

J. Paul Schenk, Green Bay

Sandy Smith, Shorewood

Theodore Steinmetz, Portage

Ernest Weber, Wautoma

Henry Winsauer, Kohler

Edgar Zobel, Ripon