The Iowa Band Museum
Former Rehearsal Hall
of the Cedar Falls
Municipal Band

Officially chartered by the Iowa Bandmasters Association

Location: 203½ Main Street
Hours: Open by appointment
Free admission. Please call:

Mailing address:
Cedar Falls Municipal Band
PO Box 144
Cedar Falls, IA 50613
Tel. (319) 266-1253

In the fall of 2017, a memorial plaque honoring former member and trustee, Justin Nelson, was installed on the entry door of the museum. Reflections make photography difficult, so the text is printed here as well:

Justin Louis Nelson (12/16/28-9/29/15) known as “The Old Tuba Tooter” was a local musical icon who played in Cedar Falls Municipal Band from 1944 to 2010. He was recognized as the longest tenured concert band member in Iowa. Justin was a frequent soloist on tuba, sarrusophone, over-the-shoulder bass horn, all sizes of saxophones and musical saws. An avid handyman and owner of Nelson Small Engine Shop, Justin had his deft hand on just about everything relating to the band. Countless items needing repair, modification, or maintenance received his thoughtful care. A devout, gentle, easy-going person, Justin made many friends in the band and community. Justin played a major role in researching and preserving the history of the band. He co-authored with his first wife Karen Saylor “The Band Plays On: History of the Cedar Falls Band 1891-1991” commemorating the group’s centennial celebration. Aided by second wife Darlene, he compiled a computer database inventory of the CFMB music library. Following his death, a memorial fund was established to continue supporting the band. Those who knew him will always hold dear the rich memory of a respected model bandsman, Justin Nelson.


On May 16, 1992, the Iowa Bandmasters Association, at its annual convention in Des Moines, unanimously adopted the resolution officially designating the Cedar Falls Municipal Band Hall as the Iowa Band Museum. It serves to house and display the Cedar Falls Band's own rich history and to preserve past artifacts of other Iowa bands.
The band hall, constructed in the 1870s, was originally two separate buildings. The Cedar Falls Municipal Band bought the south unit in 1916 and the other in 1923. First, most of the common wall area on the second floor was removed. Then, extensive remodeling created the main 44x40-foot rehearsal room and ten other upper rooms and offices.

When John Philip Sousa brought his famous band to give a concert at the Waterloo Hippodrome on October 23, 1926, he visited the band building. He enthusiastically stated that this band hall "is the finest in the United States considering the size of the town in which it is situated." Now the last remaining municipal band hall in Iowa, it continues to provide a home for the oldest continuing municipal band in the state.

Walking into the upstairs hall is like stepping back in time. The basic appearance is virtually unchanged from the 1920s. The furniture, carpeting, curtains, raised linoleum floor tiers, music stands, ceiling, plumbing fixtures, photos, documents, instruments, equipment, music, uniforms, and general interior atmosphere all contribute to placing the visitor into the "Golden Band Age" of 1860-1940. Military bands, circus bands, town bands, show bands, and touring concert bands played immortal works of American music composed by Karl King, Henry Fillmore, Sousa, and the great master composers.

The ceilings are surfaced with molded tin. Wooden chairs and floor carpeting were acquired from Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) in 1923. The cloth chair covers helped to keep hot perspiring players from sticking to them. The water-cooled fan system was reportedly "just a little better than nothing" while the room was usually "incredibly hot" in the summer. The top floor rehearsal room under a tarred roof could absorb considerable heat from sunlight. Modern air conditioning and a new roof were much appreciated, especially by the old-timers in the band. The four skyway windows provide additional lighting.

The conductor's podium is custom-made mahogany with dark finish and sunken lighted score desk, shaped feet and lower storage area. It was acquired from an opera house orchestra pit in the 1920s, and is the central focus of the rehearsal room. The conductor stands on a large handmade linoleum covered box which doubles as a storage box. Items from the early years which were preserved there include small instruments, folders, music, newspaper, lights, spare parts and fixtures.

The music stands and lights are hand-made from pipe, wood, and electrical parts, and are bolted to the floor. An electrical switch on the east wall powers all of the stand lights. The chalkboard was used to give timely instructions, and the old double spring windup pendulum clock on the front wall still keeps good time. Past rules regarding concert dress, musicianship, and conduct are posted as a continual reminder to players.

The milkglass ceiling light fixtures, window drapes and blinds, porcelain drinking fountain, and chain-pull bathroom toilet date from the building's reconstruction period. Many of the percussion instruments remained in use for seventy years, including the two tympani, bass drum, and bells. Quality lasts.

Many old instruments shown here are still in use, including a unique double bell euphonium, sarrusophone, "rain-catcher" Sousaphones, Eb clarinet, Db piccolo, military system bassoons, Eb and F horns, tenor, bass and baritone saxophones, trombone, metal clarinet, and many more dating from the band's beginning. A special pageable display unit shows much of the band's history in new clippings, photos, programs, documents and letters. This exhibition room was renovated in 1988, and was dedicated to the former CFMB conductor during the band centennial celebration in 1991.
The central music office contains a large framed photo collage of the band of 1898 directed by the band's first full-time conductor, Frank A. Fitzgerald. First named the Ancient Order of United Workers Band, the AOUW could no longer afford to sponsor the band. So 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 Cedar Falls Band. For convenience sake, when a player left the band and was replaced, so was his photo. Thus, a photo of the photo was taken for posterity and also remains on display here. Women were first allowed in the band in 1930.

The office contains three heavy oak and mahogany work tables, low storage cabinet, and a permanent handmade tall wooden library storage cabinet with three sliding doors, drawers, and movable shelving. Most of the music which was stored here dates from the 1800s, but is seldom used due to the particular styles of orchestrations and selections. Only one ceiling light illuminated the room until recently when additional lighting and outlets were added. A special banner is displayed in a glassed wooden case on the office wall, presented in 1913 by the Elks Lodge of Waterloo to the band as the "official convention band of Iowa."

The band has had three uniforms. The first was a black cadet uniform with dark or white trousers, depending on the temperature. This is shown in photos in the music office. and was worn from the band's beginning in 1891 until about 1925. The next was a blue jacket with shoulder eplets, brass buttons, and leather Sam Brown belting worn with striped gray slacks and flattop officer's cap. This was in use until 1952. The current uniform is a maroon jacket with gold braiding and trim, shoulder eplets, and brass buttons worn also with gray striped slacks. The uniforms were of heavy wool material which made for extended apparel life, but also for uncomfortable players, reportedly never warm enough in cold weather and always insufferably hot in the summer. However, they looked great! The band now gives summer Tuesday evening park concerts in short sleeved white shirts. A-a-a-h-h!
The building's first floor has been used as a commercial space for various businesses, providing rental revenue to cover taxes and maintenance. Past business occupants have included: Buffalo Candy Kitchen (1913), Cedar Falls Broom Company (1913), Raub's Smoke Shop (1919), Jensen Fruit Store (1927), Pomeroy's Smoke Shop (1927), Apparel Art (1938), Carroll's Smoke Shop (1934), Western Auto Hardware (1945-1985), and the current St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.

Regarded as the "Father of the Cedar Falls Band," past board president and businessman George Hughes was a key figure when the band incorporated in 1916, leading the way toward the purchase of the two downtown buildings, extensive interior renovation, and the purchase of many needed instruments and equipment items. His sons Les and Leo were both talented and often featured musicians who helped establish a great tradition of excellence for the Cedar Falls Municipal Band.

Lary Anderson
Don Rasmusson
Mark Welty