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Restoring a 140-Year Tradition of Community Music Making in Phoenix

In 1880, George H. Kelly, a house and sign painter, was asked to organize a small group of Phoenicians into the town's first band. Settled just ten years earlier, the entire population of Phoenix was only 2,453. The majority of the new band members were non-musicians. The Pioneer Band would become a Phoenix institution that brought music to eager audiences and community events for almost fifty years.


In the heyday of brass bands in the United States, every town that could muster half a dozen or more aspiring musicians had at least one band. Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Tucson, Globe, Bisbee, Prescott, and Yuma are among the Arizona towns that had bands, and some had several. 

This phenomenon was a reflection of American culture at the turn of the 20th Century. The United States was an up-and-coming nation, still insecure of its place in the world, but with a sense of destiny, a spirit of community, and the idea that we could do anything if we all pitched in and got it done. 


IOOF Parade 1880s - ASU.jpg


The Pioneer Band was the embodiment of this spirit.  It was an egalitarian, ragtag group that represented a cross section of Phoenix residents, united by a common purpose of bringing music to a dusty desert outpost that wanted to call itself a city. 


 To many, Phoenix today has become large, anonymous and impersonal.  The nation, our state, and our city face the kind of existential challenges that require us to work together.  The renaissance of Downtown has attracted urban pioneers who have an appreciation for the culture and the history of this place. The time is right to revive the Pioneer Band's tradition of bringing people together with music.


The NEW Phoenix Pioneer Band connects people with the history of Phoenix, Arizona during the Town Band Era using the music of the time. We:

  • Educate modern audiences about this historic institution and its contribution to the civic life of early Phoenix

  • Provide a place for like-minded amateur musicians to enjoy playing the music of the Town Band era together, in the way it was actually played with a limited ensemble of around 20 people

  • Connect with people in the greater Phoenix community by providing an attraction at suitable  events.

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