Community Band to celebrate 100th anniversary in Aug.
Long live the music.
In what is a true testament to its longevity, the Palmerton Community Band is about to reach the century mark.
To commemorate the historic milestone, the band will celebrate 100 years of music and concerts with a performance at 7 p.m. Aug. 14 in the Palmerton Borough Park.
Joseph Plechavy, band director, said that while the band was actually formed in November 1911, the celebration concert will be part of the concert in the park series.
As part of the celebration, two pieces of music have been commissioned: A march, "Our Legacy", and a concert piece entitled "Flashback", will be performed. Both pieces were written by Ray Becker, past director of the Allentown Marine Band.
In Aug. of 1911, the Palmerton Men's Band was formed at a meeting in the Neighborhood house after J.E. Hayes, the then superintendent of the Zinc Company plants, helped bring the musicians together.
Stuart A. Prutzman was elected leader. With Zinc Company Librarian P.A. Bartholomew, they purchased music, trained the band and began to take on concerts, picnics, and other events that required music.
Bartholomew succeeded Prutzman as director in November of 1921. Among those who participated in the band were Barthold Zeiser, Norman Lichtenwalner, Harry Mendsen, Teofil Hrusovsky, Paul Merics, David Snyder, P.A. and Carson Batholomew.
However, interest began to wane in 1921. So, to ensure that the band would survive, the Boys Band was formed in April of 1923.
Lead by John P. Tranley, 18 boys started the band. Two months later, Robert Montz, who had been the Parryville Band leader for many years, took over. Rehearsals were two nights a week, with the first concert to be November 1923 at the Neighborhood House.
By 1925, the boys band had between 75-100 members. Combined with the 40 members of the Palmerton Men's Band, 140 individuals played and performed music in the town. Due to its size, the Zinc Company remodeled the Squash Court building adjacent of the Horsehead Inn, and the band began to practice there. The band played weekly concerts in the park in the summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Picnics and reunions were also held, while winter concerts were given as well in the Palmerton High School Auditorium.
After about 25 years of service, the Boy's Band was disbanded around 1948 due to a greater emphasis on music training in the schools. In some cases, interested personnel from other communities were brought in to help fill out the ranks of musicians.
After 23 years, Bartholomew resigned as director of the band in November of 1945. Howard Wentz, the cornet soloist, took over and served for 11 years until 1956.
In January of 1957, Alvin Schmidt took over, but due to an employment change, he left Lehighton in September of 1957. In October of 1957, Rodney Grimm of Lehighton was appointed director, and remained in that position until around 1973.
Thomas Heinze, who became the then new high school band director, was appointed to lead the band. After three years, Jack DeSousa of Palmerton became the director, and remained in that role until 2000, when the baton was passed to Plechavy.
Much has changed over time, noted Plechavy. When the band began, only men and boys could participate. But, by the end of the 1960s, girls and women were allowed into the band.
Today, the band is comprised of members not only from Palmerton, but Lehighton, Jim Thorpe and Northampton, among others.
"It is a constant battle to keep musical organizations up and running," Plechavy said. "Finding the monetary support, the musicians, the place to rehearse, and places to perform."
In addition, Plechavy said performance venues have changed and disappeared. The midweek concerts in the park for about 18 weeks have changed to only four concerts for the band, and just 11 concerts total in the park for the summer.
Plechavy said it's the band's wish to find as many alumni of the band as possible for the Aug. 14 concert.
"We would love to have as many as possible in attendance for the concert," he said. "If any of the past members still play, they are welcome to come and join us on the band stand for the evening concert, and enjoy the camaraderie and the ability to make music again."
Plechavy may be contacted at (610) 681-6934, or palmertoncommunityband.com.
The band is scheduled to perform a concert at 7 p.m. tonight in the borough park.