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Guide to the La Crosse Concert Band Records, 1931-2005 MSS 021

Guide to the La Crosse Concert Band Records, 1931-2005

MSS 021

Summary Information

Originally named the La Crosse City Band, the group of 32 began performing in 1931 and was the official city band for La Crosse, Wisconsin, until 1947 when city financial support ceased. The name was then changed to the La Crosse Concert Band. Privately sponsored, the band of professional musicians continues to perform every summer in La Crosse parks.

Records of the La Crosse Concert Band (originally named the La Crosse City Band) consist of a constitution (2004), list of board members (2003-2004), minutes (1956-1978), clippings and schedules (1931-1982; 1993-2005), and photographs (1937-1967; 1979; 1990-2005). Lastly, a plastic kazoo with the Band's insignia is included.
Collection Title
La Crosse Concert Band Records
Date of Materials
La Crosse Concert Band (La Crosse, Wis.).
Call Number
MSS 021
0.8 cubic feet
Physical Description
2 archives boxes
Language of Materials
La Crosse Public Library Archives

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], La Crosse Concert Band Records, MSS 021, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI

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Historical Note

As the bandshell in Riverside Park was nearing completion in the fall of 1930, a group of local union musicians began to seriously consider the idea of forming a concert band for the city of La Crosse. This group of citizens asked themselves what better way to honor Dr. Wendell A. Anderson, the founder of La Crosse's park system and two-time mayor, than to have a local city band perform on a permanent basis in the concrete bandshell named for him.

When the outdoor auditorium, designed by Otto Merman, was dedicated on September 14, Rudolph Kreutz, a local theater orchestra leader, organized a group that played for the occasion. Only small amounts of funds were available for occasional performances by local bands and the city did not support a regular schedule of park concerts. As a result, no band enjoyed long-term financial backing or incentive necessary for continual activity. In fact, when a Fall Music and Harvest Festival held in the new bandshell was funded by donations from local merchants, a band from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was hired to perform.

It wasn't until late in 1930 when D. Russell Wartinbee, director of music in the public schools, led a series of rehearsals and the La Crosse City Band was born. Radio concerts were given over WKBH in January of the following year and the band made public appearances to whet the appetite of La Crosse music lovers. A huge gala of dance and musical entertainment was held at the Avalon as a fundraiser for uniforms on February 11, 1931. Six orchestras donated their time and talent to the event which was "attended by hundreds of people" according to a newspaper review which appeared the following day. A floor show, which included musical numbers and vaudeville stars, was performed by members of the Guy & Eloda Beach Stock Company. Guy Beach had arranged for the concert band to open some of the Beach Stock Company's shows when they performed at the Majestic Theatre.

Clad in blue broadcloth uniforms trimmed in red and white at a cost of $35 each, the 32 or so members of the La Crosse City Band marched in their first public function, the Memorial Day parade May 30, 1931. A public concert was also held later in the afternoon at Riverside Park. The members donated their time and talents were not paid for their performances until the June 9 concert. This was the first in a series of 19 city-sponsored outdoor appearances given at La Crosse public parks that year. Performances were mainly held at Riverside, Myrick, Copeland, and occasionally Pettibone parks, and the first season stretched from early June to September. The scheduled performances were given Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons.

The musical selections in the early days often included waltzes, marches, classical and popular pieces to appeal to a wide variety of listeners. Over time the band branched out and played in Onalaska, West Salem, Tomah Veterans' Hospital, Sparta, and occasionally New Albin, Iowa. The directorship role was assumed by D. Russell Wartinbee for the first couple of years. He continued to play while Edgar J. Roemheld, Edward Mumm and later Ed Norris picked up the baton for the Concert Band. Starting in 1939, Wartinbee again conducted the group for the next three decades.

The all male band tradition continued until 1969 when three women joined, although prior to this time many guest soloists were women. The original members all belonged to the American Federation of Musicians Local 201 and were paid 75 cents for each rehearsal attended and probably $1.50 for each performance in the early years. Up until 1947, the band was completely city sponsored and musicians earned $3 a concert. The name of the band was changed to La Crosse Concert Band when city support ceased.

By 1979 the band boasted an additional 20 members who played independently, mainly through the student apprentice program. In 1986 the bandshell was renovated and a concert was dedicated to charter member, Carl Rochelt. Rochelt played saxophone with the band from the beginning to the end of the 1986 season. Today the band is a highly professional organization with a limited number of student apprenticeships available to mature high school and college students.

As the city parks department funded fewer and fewer concerts, the group began to receive other funding through the Musicians Performance Trust Fund. The modern band presents about seven concerts a season on Wednesday evenings. Funding for the 1992 season were provided by Skogen's Food Stores, the Musician's Performance Trust Fund, Liz Goli-Rander, La Crosse Tribune, Trane Foundation, Ovation Marketing, and Jan Hoeschler.

In 2003 the Band sponsored its "Great Kazoo Caper" and organized the audience to play three songs on kazoos for the Guinness Book of World Records. The record was smashed the following year by a group in Quincy, Illinois.

The Band celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2005 and published a book by Susan Hessel called "More Power to You and the Band Boys: 75 Years of the Band Boys - and Girls - of the La Crosse Concert Band." The La Crosse Concert Band still treats listeners to a variety of musical delights at Riverside Park and has about 70 members.

Directors of the La Crosse Concert Band
1930-1931 D. Russell "Doc" Wartinbee
1932-1934 Edgar J. Roemheld
1934-1936 Edward Mumm
1936-1938 Ed Norris
1939-1968 D. Russell "Doc" Wartinbee
1969 J. Sturgis
1970 Louis Witt
1971-1973 Dr. John Alexander
1973 Alex Vaver (interim)
1973-1976 Dr. John Alexander
1976-1979 Steven Bina
1980-1991 Carmen Catania
1991 Gary Evenson (interim)
1991-1999 Carmen Catania
2000-present A variety of conductors have led the band during each season, including Carmen Catania, Steve Bina, Alex Vaver, James Knutson, Jeff Krauklis, Jerry Kember, Ed Higgins, and Rick Young, Alex Vaver and Steve Bina.

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Scope and Contents

Most of the initial collection (1931-1966) was compiled by D. Russell "Doc" Wartinbee, long time director and charter member of the La Crosse Concert Band.

A constitution and list of board members date from the time the 75th anniversary committee was starting their quest to learn about the Band's history and date from 2003-2004. The minutes cover the annual organizational meetings and the occasional concert band board meetings that were held every year from 1956-1978. The clippings and schedules date from 1931-1982; 1993-2005 and record the yearly concert performances of the band. The photographs date mainly from 1931-1967 although there are a few later scattered photos (1979 and 1990; 2005). The 2005 section also includes two compact disks of scanned material from Carl Rochelt and others that was used in the making of the book.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

La Crosse Public Library Archives 2006 July

800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
(608) 789-7136

Access to Materials

Materials in this collection are available for patron use.

Acquisitions Information

(Accession No. 1991.008) Donated by Ken Williamson, president of the American Federation of Musicians Local 201, April 1991. (Accession No. 1992.004) Photograph of 1990 band donated by Carmen Catania, director, La Crosse Concert Band, May 1992. (Accession No. 2005.085) Photographs and clippings associated with the 75th anniversary of the La Crosse Concert Band donated by Michael Sigman, May 2005.

Processing Information

Processed by Anita Taylor Doering, May 1992; additions processed by ATD, July 2006.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • La Crosse City Band (La Crosse, Wis.).
  • La Crosse Concert Band (La Crosse, Wis.).


  • Bands (Music)--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Concerts--Wisconsin--La Crosse

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OCLC Number


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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Constitution, 2004 

1 1

List of board members, 2003-2004 

1 2

Minutes, 1956-1978 

1 3

Newspaper clippings and schedules 

Box Folder


1 4-9


1 1-2


Box Folder


2 3

 1971-2005   Includes two CDs

2 4
Box Folder

Plastic kazoo, circa 2003 

2 5