On July 15, 1915, the Hagerstown Municipal Band played its first concert in the Maryland Theatre.
The band was formed in 1915 through the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce. Chamber members realized that, with professional direction, an excellent band could result from the aggregate of bands then having varying degrees of success in the area. A Chamber committee was appointed to study the feasibility of such a band, and an advertisement was soon placed in a New York music journal for a band director.
Serving on the committee were S.E. Minimum, a piano store operator: B. Armstrong, an insurance agent: M.I. Patterson, a hotel manager: and J.C. Byron, a retired Army major and the owner of a leather goods company.
The committee received 35 inquiries as a result of its modest ad, but finally selected Vermond Knauss of Allentown, Pa., to serve as conductor of the new band. Under Knauss' direction, the Hagerstown Municipal Band played it first concert on July 15, 1915, in the Maryland Theatre.
Up until that hot summer, Hagerstown had boasted four city bands. They were the Hagerstown Concert Band, the Western Maryland Band, the South End Band and the Silverine Band. In addition, other Washington County communities like Smithsburg, Keedysville, Beaver Creek, Williamsport, Leitersburg and Rohrersville had bands of their own. Of These musical groups, only the Rohrersville Band remains.
Perhaps the most successful of these bands prior to the organization of the Hagerstown Municipal Band was the Silverine Band. It was from this group that the new band obtained much of its first equipment and the nucleus of its musicians. The Silverines, during their last four years, were directed by the late Roger C Harp of Middletown, a native musician and a graduate of the Dana Institute of Music in Warren, Ohio. Many local musicians, including some members of the Hagerstown Municipal Band, still remember Mr. Harp, having studied with him. By coincidence, the first director of the Hagerstown Municipal Band, Vermond Knauss, also was a graduate of Dana Institute and had been Harp's roommate during their entire time at the school.
Over the years, the Hagerstown Municipal Band has had eight music directors. Before 1920, there were Vermond A Knauss, James Riley Wheelock and W. H. Eberle. In 1920, Dr. Peter Buys began a tenure that lasted until his retirement in 1959. That year Kenneth B Slater began a 10 year stint as band director, and in 1959, the late Joseph M Leptich took over the baton for a brief period. Leptich was followed by Michael A Maglio, who continue through 1974. The present director, Lynn Lerew, has been with the band since early 1975.
Band members today are from all walks of life, and of all ages. Many young musicians from the county's public school music programs begin with the band during high school and college.
Despite changes in personnel, the Hagerstown Municipal Band still plays a new musical program every Sunday evening during the summer at 7:30 in the Peter Buys Band Shell, barring inclement weather.
The band is sponsored by the City of Hagerstown. All concerts are free.