Next Up – Vintage Band Festival

The next set of performances for the 1st Nebraska Volunteers Brass Band will be in Northfield, Minnesota on August 1-August 4, 2019. We’ll be participating in the Vintage Band Festival that will include 15 bands from around the country and some from overseas, as well. Bands will be performing ethnic traditions, Victorian American, World War One American, and American Civil War styles. The festival is free to the public and Northfield is a great example of a Victorian town. Did you know that Jesse James staged his last Train robbery there?

Come out to Northfield to see us.












New Tuba Provides Oomph to the Band

On Saturday, January 26, band leader Bill Hall and tubist Nate Griffith traveled to Des Moines to try out a restored bass/tuba for the 1st Nebraska Band. The owner, Steve Sprague, leader of the Liberty Band of Iowa, was selling the instrument because they had switched from upright bell horns to Over-the Shoulder horns. Steve had the instrument restored by Southeastern Musical Services in Huntsville, Alabama.


As Nate opened the sturdy case the beauty of the polished brass finish shined forth. Nate carefully picked up the tuba and began to play a series of high notes on the horn. They projected clear and beautiful. Next, valve compression was checked, and each slide popped when pulled out, meaning that a good vacuum was maintained because the valves were sealing the tubing. Nate finally settled into playing some notes in the normal playing range of the tuba, adjusted the length of the valve slides, and found good intonation throughout the chromatic series. Thoroughly satisfied, Nate presented Steve with a nice check for purchase of the instrument.

The tuba is an upright bell side action rotary valve E-flat Bass in polished brass manufctured under the Lyon & Healy name. Lyon & Healy produced brass instruments from 1864 until 1928, and sold them in their retail store in Chicago.

We can’t wait to see how the instrument sounds combined with the rest of the band. So looking forward to our February rehearsal. Thanks, Nate, for investsing in this beautiful horn.


1st Nebraska Receives Christmas Gift

On December 10th, band leader Bill Hall received a phone call from a fellow Civil War band enthusiast in Iowa asking if the 1st Nebraska had received enough donations in the recent Washington County Gives campaign to purchase a desired period alto horn. Bill sadly replied “No, we didn’t.” To which the friend asked if the band would like to receive a donation of a circa 1870 Ernst Seltmann top-action, rotary valved, upright bell alto horn that was not in current use. Well, Bill was more than elated, especially because December 10 is his birthday!

Ernst Seltmann immigrated to the United States in 1857, from Neukirchen, Germany. He settled in Philadelphia and began producing brass instruments by 1860, where he stayed in business until his death in 1883. Most of Seltmann’s upright bell horns follow the same pattern as the above alto.

The donated alto horn has a beautiful singing tone and is very agile, accurately making large skips. The instrument has been lovingly restored and is in excellent condition. Bill put the horn to immediate use in the band’s Dec. 22nd performance at The Durham Museum.

Below is a detail photo of the alto horn’s string action rotary valve mechanism. The top action levers are easily visible, and when depressed turn the valve by way of the string’s winding movement.

The shape of Seltmann’s maker’s mark stamped into the instrument’s bell indicates an approximate year of manufacture of around 1870.

The 1st Nebraska Volunteers Brass Band now owns 4 period cornets, and a period alto horn, tenor horn, and baritone horn. In addition the band has a turn of the 20th century E-flat tuba, and a Civil War reproduction rope-tensioned snare drum. The band is 5 instruments short of a complete collection of period instrumentation.

Soon we’ll begin posting our 2019 performance schedule that will include participating in the 150th anniverary celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in Council Bluffs, Iowa in July.

Contact us if you’d like to have the band perform in your community.

New Cornet for 1st Nebraska

This morning (November 7, 2016), FedEx brought our newly purchased Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory SARV B-flat Cornet. The instrument was produced in the 1870s based upon patterns E. G. Wright used during the Civil War. It has Side-Action Rotary Valves, a very popular design for brass instruments of the period, and was played valves-up with the first finger of the left hand nestled in the finger crook.


The gentleman who sold it to us had played the cornet for several years but no longer had a use for it. You can tell just how much he valued the instrument by it’s great condition. He told me the story of how he acquired the cornet: “I bought it from the original owner’s grandson. He called me one day and said ‘I have a clarinet.’ I asked him if it was wood or metal, he said metal, and I told him it wasn’t worth anything and to chuck it. LOL He showed up a few months later with the cornet and I realized I had only ever seen one in a museum. After he passed his widow sold me the horn.”



The instrument comes with its original mouthpiece and leather case. We’re so proud to own this beautiful cornet, and will put it into use early in 2017.






Battle of the Bands – Stones River

From December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863 the Union and Confederate Armies engaged in a major battle south east of Nashville, Tennessee just west of Murfreesboro at Stones River. The Union forces lined up from north to south on the west, The Confederate forces lined up from north to south to their east.

img_0121The night before the battle bands from both armies took turns serenading the troops and each other. First the Yanks, then the Rebs; back and forth for nearly an hour. Finally, one of the bands struck up “Home, Sweet Home,” and was soon joined by the band of the other side. Together they ended their “Battle of the Bands” on a tender note that touched the heart of every soldier, Blue or Gray.

This past October 15th reenactor musicians from bands portraying both sides gathered at the Stones River Battlefield to recreate the “Battle of the Bands.” I was pleased to represent Nebraska along with musicians from Texas, California, Ohio, Rhode Island, Alabama, West Virginia, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. We rehearsed music in respective Blue and Gray bands in the morning, enjoyed a lunch provided by the National Park Service, performed at various sites along the battlefield in the early afternoon, and closed our day with a recreation of the original “Battle of the Bands,” including the closing song “Home, Sweet Home.”

img_0117I had a wonderful time meeting musicians that I correspond with on facebook, including several members of the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Band. Many of these Buckeyes were members of the Ohio State Marching Band during their college years, as was I. During lunch we reminisced about our days in the band and told “war stories” of our experiences. Although there were several membes of more recent years, I was pleased to get reacquainted with a fellow member of my days in the band.

img_0125We are making plans for another “BoB” in a year or two. So, if you participate in a Civil War reenactment band please consider joining us.

Broken Bow Trip

What a wonderful trip the 1st Nebraska had to Broken Bow, NE for the 100th anniversary of their historic band stand. Over the years the town has enjoyed many concerts and historic speeches presented via this platform in their city square park. The citizens have repaired and restored the band stand to keep it as a focal point of their city, and they identify strongly with it. Be sure to view the video linked below to listen to them talk about their band stand.

North Platte TV Coverage of Broken Bow’s Bandstand Celebration. Short clips of 1st Nebraska included.


The day was full of activities, beginning with a fun run and including a chili cookout for lunch. The official program began at 2 pm with the posting of the colors and national anthem, followed by a reenactment of Sen. George Norris’ speech from 1935. Norris was portrayed by Dave Landis, a noted historical presenter from central Nebraska.


Following Landis’ portrayal the 1st Nebraska presented its concert. Several ladies and gentlemen wore period costumes which they paraded while we played. About half-way through our program we paused to hold an old-time paper plate throw sponsored by local merchants. Catchers of the plates won free meals and merchandise from the sponsors. Then we resumed and completed our concert.

The band was welcomed with great hospitality including a suite at the historic Arrow Hotel. The suite was a welcome respite following our 3.5 hour drive from Omaha. Following the concert Shelly and I retreated to the rooms to relax in the air conditioning and to watch the Ohio State football game.

We’re very thankful for the invitation to perform in Broken Bow, and want to acknowledge the main sponsors of the event: The City of Broken Bow, The Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce, and Custer Public Power. A special thanks goes to our contact person, Carol Fritzler.

Broken Bow Bandstand Celebration

On Saturday, October 8th, 1st Nebraska will travel to Broken Bow, NE, to participate in the city’s celebration of their historic bandstand, originally built 100 years ago. The band stand has been refurbished a few times over the years, and recently underwent a comprehensive restoration so that civic and musical events could continue to be held in the town square park.


The ceremony begins at 2:00 with flag posting by two honor guards and a reading of the speech given by Senator Norris in 1935. Norris was the champion of rural electrification, and today Nebraska remains the only state with 100% public power companies. The band will play the Star Spangled Banner at 2:00 and then perform its concert following the speech.

The event is being sponsored by the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce, the Custer Power Company, and the City of Broken Bow. We’re really looking forward to this road trip and to meeting the very hospitable people of Broken Bow. If your in the North Central par of Nebraska on Saturday come out and hear us play and help Broken Bow celebrate.