The Cedar Falls Municipal band traces its roots from 1857 when it was the "Cedar Falls Brass Band." In 1891 it was formally organized as the "Ancient Order of United Workers Military Band" which is shown in the large framed photo collage still on display in the office. B. K. Kilborne was conductor of this band.
Iowa State Normal School (now University of Northern Iowa) music professor Frank A. Fitzgerald was the first full-time conductor beginning in 1893. When the AOUW could no longer afford to sponsor the band, he took it over renaming it "Fitzgerald's Concert Band." In 1900 the Commercial Club provided added financial support, and the name was again changed in 1903 to the "Cedar Falls Band."
Frank L. McCreary followed in 1907 leading the band until 1928. Originally a barber and band director from Clarksville, he had extensive show business experience. As a cornetist he directed a number of circus bands, and directed the Reinbeck City Band from 1901 to 1904. McCreary served as part-time Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) music professor while the Cedar Falls Band under his flamboyant direction gained statewide and international fame. As the offical band for Waterloo Elks Club, the band played at numerous conventions throughout Iowa. It earned championship trophies in Iowa City, Davenport, Dubuque, Muscatine, Waterloo, and Marshalltown. The band also played concerts in nearby communities.
James A. Melichar directed the band for forty-seven years, from 1929 to 1976. Born in Bohemia in 1896, his musical training began there. Touring with a Czech saxophone band, he came to America in 1912 and earned official citizenship the following year. After serving in the U.S. Army during WWII he directed bands in the Dakotas. Joining the Monahan Post Band in Sioux City in 1920, he took over the podium there in 1922. This group won top honors in Omaha in 1925 and Paris, France in 1927. When the Cedar Falls Band hired Melichar in 1929, while the Monahan Post Band searched for a replacement, he conducted both bands, commuting between the two towns by train. Under his demanding baton the band won the prize at the Chicagoland Band Festivals in 1930, 1931, 1935, and 1953. Large group photos were taken of winners and are on display in the main rehearsal hall today. He also taught music in the Cedar Falls Schools until 1949, then another fourteen years in Dike. He trained young players at the band hall for membership in the Junior Band from which they could progress into the Concert Band. He also initiated the inclusion of women players. "Jim" Melichar continued to return each season after his retirement to appear as a guest conductor until his final conducting performance at the band centennial celebration old-timers reunion concert in July, 1991, at the age of 95!
Anton "Tony" M. Lund, a trombone and baritone player, became a member of the band in 1953. He took up the baton after Melichar in 1977 and directed until 1983. A native of Wessington, South Dakota, then later Vancouver, Washington, he earned his B.A. degree at Iowa State Teachers College in 1940, and an M.A. in 1961. His Master's thesis on "Major Landers and the Iowa Band Law" earned high acclaim and many reprintings by the Iowa Bandmasters Association in which he served as historian. In 1944, after serving three years in the Army Air Corps Band, Tony operated a music store in Boone, and in 1948 taught band in Rolfe, Iowa. He taught band at Cedar Falls High School and served as music department chair from 1952 until his retirement in 1981.
Dennis A. Downs joined as trombonist in 1980, and began conducting in1984. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, he earned a BFAE in 1969 at Wayne State College, and an M.A. at the University of Northern Colorado. Downs taught orchestra and band in Nebraska and Kansas before coming to Cedar Falls in 1979. He taught orchestra in the Cedar Falls School District, and served as music department chair 1981-91. The band, under his direction, has developed artistically and has seen promotional advances resulting in weekly summer concert series attendance usually topping 900. He served as project director for the classically designed and acoustically acclaimed band shell in Overman Park which opened in 1996.
Ken Henze recently retired from the Waterloo Community School District where his teaching impacted approximately 2000 band students over his 36 year career. Beginning in 1986, Ken taught Band at East High School for 10 years, followed by 4 years at West High from 96-2000, and has just completed 22 years as Band Director at Hoover Middle School.
Ken received a Bachelor of Music Education degree from UNI in 1983 and in 1985 he earned a Master of Music Performance degree from the University of Akron in northeast Ohio. He has performed as Principal Tuba in the Cedar Falls Municipal Band for 32 years, and is a founding member of Musica Ficta Brass and Percussion.
Ken especially enjoys traveling with Debb, his wife of 33 years. He also loves spending time at the family farm with his son Noah who is an
excavator in the Cedar Valley, and visiting his daughter Marissa who works in Clinical Research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
According to Ken,
Jim Vowels has been a high school band director since 1992 and is in his 25th year of teaching at Waverly-Shell Rock High School. Jim directed the Greater Waverly Municipal Band for 13 years. He has three grown children Sophie, Kurby and Celia. His wife Patricia teaches chemistry and biology at NIACC (North Iowa Area Community College). They live on a small acreage in Waverly with Patty's three children Elyse, Ole & Francelia and their chihuahua Stella.