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Historically speaking: Negaunee City Band roots

The Negaunee City Band is pictured in a photo taken in 1944. (Photo courtesy of the Negaunee Historical Society)

NEGAUNEE — The Negaunee band shell has been silent this summer due to the pandemic but we know that they will resume when this is over because they have been performing their musical talents since 1898.

In the early years of the history of Negaunee, immigrants came from different parts and countries of Europe, namely from England and Germany.

And later from Italy, Poland, Sweden and Finland. Most of the French people immigrated from Canada. The English of Cornwall, England and the Irish were predominant. Then the Italians, Swedes and Finns filled the gap.

The English and Irish brought their musical instruments with them from their native country. They were practically all brass instruments. So now we have the English and Irish Brass Bands. Although bands were not big, they were successful.

The size of the band was limited because there wasn’t anyone that could play just any band instrument. The bands usually numbered six to 12 players.

The only difference between the local bands and the German bands that used to come and play on the street corners once or twice in the summer was that they played reed instruments as well as brass.

In the year 1898, the reed instrument players were in great demand and bands were so popular it made no difference what nationality they were.

The English Band became known as the English Oak Band and its members had to be the, ” Sons of England.” They were under the direction of John Blackwell. This band served the musical needs of their English cousins and the order of “The Sons of St. George.”

Little by little the gates of Negaunee opened and by this time the Italians, Germans, Finns and Swedes as well as the French were quite noticeable here and among them were some very good musicians, especially the Italians.

At this time Negaunee also boasted of a high class dance orchestra, the “Anderson Dance Band Orchestra.” The star player was John Stecher, who was of German stock.

He was a cornetist, who became well known through out the Upper Peninsula. In this orchestra quite a few men were able to play two or more instruments and were able to supply dance music for all occasions. This was also the time that the players coaxed John Stecher to organize a marching band.

A band that welcomed any player regardless of nationality.It became known as the John Stecher Band and before long the players from the English Oak Band joined Stechers Band.

This now became known as the “Negaunee City Orchestra Band,” and held this title until 1907 at which time the present name Negaunee City Band was adopted. The Negaunee City Band played a big part in harmonizing the different nationalities.

In these early stages of history, even up to the time of the first world war their was strife, hatred and quite often there were clashes among men and women of different nationalities.

The band learned to recognize the good qualities in their fellow band members. They learned the meaning of, The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you expect others to do unto you.” The Negaunee City Band is an example of unity, charity and harmony displayed by its members and their families.

The band was and still is a melting pot of many nationalities and where differences are melted away in the common language of music.

The language of music has a great charm and it is a language all nations love and understand. At one time the Negaunee City Band consisted of all men but today several women are in the band, so that barrier has also been crossed.

There is one component that is worth mentioning and that is the City of Negaunee since 1898 has never been without a band. Joseph Sedlock came to Negaunee in 1904 at the age of 18, knowing how to play two instruments and joined the city band and continued playing for 60 years.

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