Caroling at Elk Ridge Village

1st Nebraska spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon with the residents of Elk Ridge Village, a retirement community on Omaha’s west side. The Village has both independent living and an assisted living facilities and we played at both of them.

Altos, Tenors, and Baritones prior to caroling at Elk Ridge Village

Our program consisted of modern Christmas arrangements, including Oh, How Joyfully, Wexford Carol, and Mary Did You Know?  followed by a sing-along of several favorite carols. The residents sang heartily and you could tell how much they enjoy a traditional Christmas celebration.

ELk residents
Elk Ridge residents finishing dessert and waiting for us to begin.
Cornets and Tuba  prior to caroling at Elk Ridge Village

Following our time at Independent Living we repeated our program down the road at Assisted Living. Both audiences were very appreciative of our performance and we were invited to return in May for a Patriotic program honoring veterans.

Serenading at the Durham Museum

On Sunday afternoon, December 6, 2015, the 1st Nebraska performed before a large and appreciative crowd at the Durham Western Heritage Museum. Each year the museum decorates a huge Christmas tree and places it in the Great Hall. Then on successive weekends the museum sponsors community music groups to perform before the visiting crowds.

Beautiful shot of the Christmas tree and the incredible ceiling of the Durham Museum

The museum is housed in the former Union Pacific Railroad passenger station in downtown Omaha. It has incredible architecture and certainly makes an big impression. As you view the photos be sure to look at the ceiling details.

The basement of the museum houses several pioneer days displays and a huge HO model train layout. It’s worth the visit just to see the trains.

Christmastime at Durham Museum

We enjoyed serenading the public with several modern brass arrangements of favorite hymns and carols, and will repeat the program for the Elk Ridge Villages senior centers this Saturday.

Fill up that crescendo!


1st Nebraska’s BIG Project

Being a reenactment organization, the 1st Nebraska Volunteers Brass Band is a “Living History” unit preserving the look and sound of Nebraska’s original Civil War band. We accomplish this by wearing Union army Civil War uniforms, and by playing authentic brass band music taken from original Civil War band books.

Our performances include a narration that describes the music the audience is hearing and relates details of soldiering during the Civil War. This provides historical context for our music, and through education increases the audience’s appreciation for pioneer days in Nebraska.

However, in order to complete our reenactment and to provide yet another level of authenticity, 1st Nebraska needs to acquire brass instruments constructed during the Civil War period. Fortunately, many have been preserved in collections and are currently in use by other reenactment bands.

Upper Voice Over-the-Shoulder Saxhorns
Upper Voice Over-the-Shoulder Saxhorns

The most common style of Civil War brass instruments is the “Over-the-Shoulder” (OTS) Saxhorns. Since bands marched in front of the troops, having backward pointing bells made it easier for the soldiers to hear what music was being played. These OTS Saxhorns came in a variety of sizes, as the photos indicate.

Lower Voice Over-the-Shoulder Saxhorns
Lower Voice Over-the-Shoulder Saxhorns

1st Nebraska needs a variety of these OTS instruments: 2 E-flat Cornets, 2 B-flat Cornets, 3 E-flat Alto Horns, 2 B-flat Tenor Horns, 2 Baritones, and 2 E-flat Bass Saxhorns. We also need 2 snare drums and 1 bass drum. That’s 16 instruments in all.

Not surprisingly, the cost for purchasing these instruments varies by size. The smallest instruments will cost us $2,500, the medium $5,000, and the largest $10,000. Altogether, 1st Nebraska needs $60,000 to buy a complete set.

Since the 1st Nebraska is now a 501c3 public charity, we are qualified to apply for foundation grants, but we would also welcome tax deductible donations from businesses and individuals, too.

If you know of a potential donor please drop me an email and we’ll get in touch! Thanks!

1st Nebraska Now a 501c3 Tax-exempt Organization

I am happy to announce that the 1st Nebraska Volunteers Brass Band has received its Letter of Determination from the IRS stating that the band is a public charity and exempt from federal income tax.

The letter also stated: “You’re qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts.” Foundations, businesses, or individuals who give grants or donations to 1st Nebraska are able to deduct the amount of those donations from their federal income tax.

Our number one fundraising goal is to purchase Civil War era brass and drums on which we’ll play at our historically oriented performances. Smaller brass instruments like cornets generally cost between $2,000 and $2,500. Large brass instruments like tubas can cost between $4,000 and $10,000. Drums can range between $500 and $2,500.

1st Nebraska Volunteers Brass Band performs for Civic and Patriotic Events, Community Festivals, School Concerts, and Civil War activities.

If you, or a foundation or business you know, would like to help us raise funds to purchase some instruments please email me at for details. Soon we will include a “donate here” button on our website through PayPal.

FOUND: The Grave Marker of Joseph A. Brown

Joseph A. Brown was the Leader of the original 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry’s Regimental Band. He was born in Baden-Wurtemburg, Germany in 1837 and immigrated to the US in 1849-1850. According to the 1860 US Census, Brown married Adelphena ___ from Missouri, and had a daughter Josephine who was born in 1859. At the time of the census the Browns were living in Omaha, and Joseph was employed as a musician.

Joseph Brown enlisted in the 1st Nebraska Infantry in June 1861, and was appointed Leader of the Regimental Band. He and the rest of the band were mustered out of service in August, 1862. That appears to end Brown’s military duty.

Joseph Brown's Grave Marker
Joseph Brown’s Grave Marker

Next, Joseph Brown shows up in Bozeman, Montana in the 1870 US Census working in the Spieth and Krug Brewery. In 1890, Brown applies for an Invalid Pension listing Montana as the state of application, and with his service listed as Principal Musician Band,1st Nebraska Infantry.

At this point I don’t know what happened to Brown’s wife or daughter.

Joseph Brown seems to have lived out the remainder of his life in Montana, often working as a placer miner and boarding in Gardner Park and Chico in Missoula County. The date of his death has not been verified as there are several Joseph Brown’s that worked as miners in various Montana locales. But it seems likely that his death occurred about 1916.

The news of today is: I found Joseph Brown’s grave marker using Billion Graves and Find a Grave. It’s located in the Florence-Carlton Cemetery across the road from Old Carlton Church in Missoula, Montana.

This is a GREAT find!

Members of the Original 1st Nebraska Regiment Band

The 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry Regiment was officially mustered-in on June 11, 1861 at Omaha under the command of Colonel John Milton Thayer. Andreas’ History of the State of Nebraska lists the following members of the Regimental Band:


Leader Joseph Brown, age 25, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, 1861.

Musician Francis Brown, age 24, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, 1861.

Musician William Achter, age 30, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, ’61.

Musician Emil Burmester, age 24, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, ’61.

Musician Fred Bimmerman, age 25, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, 1861.

Musician Fred Boehm, age 18, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, 1861.

Musician Gustavus Eberdt, age 20, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, ’61.

Musician Ben Hempil, age 36, res. Plattsmouth, e. and mus. June 11, ’61.

Musician Fred Rendelman, age 27, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June l l, ’61.

Musician Augustus Saltzman, age 19, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, 1861.

Musician Englebert Wagner, age 30, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, 1861.

Musician William Wagner, age 28, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, ’61.

Musician Andrew Frank, age 29, res. Omaha, e. and mus. June 11, 1861.

The regiment had been gathering soldiers at Omaha to complete their numbers since May 1861, so the official records lists residences as Omaha. But, in fact, William Achter was from Muscatine, Iowa, and The Wagner brothers were from St. Joseph, Missouri.

Since each regiment was authorized its own band of up to 24 members, the Army was spending something like six million dollars a year on pay and benefits. So, in order to lower non-combatant expenditures, Gen. Henry Halleck, Army Chief of Staff, issued an order to army commanders to muster out all regimental bands. The 1st Nebraska Regiment Band was mustered-out on Aug. 18, 1862, in compliance with Special Order, Nov. 206, Headquarters Army of the Southwest, Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis commanding.

Shortly thereafter, several bands re-enlisted as Brigade Bands. However, the musicians in the 1st Nebraska chose to return to civilian life.

Mockingbird Quickstep

Septimus Winner (1827-1902) came from a musical family in that his father was a violin maker and his brother, Joseph, was also a composer (The Little Brown Jug). Septimus was a storekeeper and music teacher in Philadelphia where he would hear “Whistlin’ Dick” Milburn, a black boy, serenading people in the street with his guitar and bird-like warbling. Winner used one of Dick’s melodies for Mockingbird and gave him prominent credit on the published music. He published it under his mother’s name, Alice Hawthorne. He also gave Dick a job in the store. Lacking foresight, Winner sold the rights to the song for $5.00 after slow initial sales. The song sold 20 million  copies over the next 50 years.