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The Great Band Mutiny Part One: Dissention in the Ranks!

Updated: May 14, 2023

The Pioneer Band of Phoenix had been operating for 25 years when trouble came: the Great Pioneer Band Mutiny. While the band would continue on for several more decades, this forgotten episode nearly put an end to it in 1907.

In November of 1906, the band played at the Territorial Fair to popular acclaim. In just the previous year, the Fair had moved from its flood-prone site on the banks of the Salt River to a brand new location at “Six Points” - Christy (19th) Avenue and McDowell Road - a quick 5-cent streetcar ride up Grand Avenue from the main part of town. As was reported in the Republican:

The Pioneer band will probably surprise the people of Phoenix this week by its work at the fair. At different times in its career this band has been alternately a pretty good and a pretty bad musical organization. At this time it is pretty good and promises to be better as the days go by. It has been recruited up with new blood until the full band now numbers between thirty and thirty-five pieces and they all know their business and the leader knows his.

That “new blood” may have been the start of the trouble. Changes began in June of that 1906, when George Golze, the band’s leader and cornet soloist for the previous eight years, resigned to return to his former home in Decatur, Illinois. Golze, a professional musician with 28 years of musical experience, was succeeded as band leader by Jesse A. Lambertz, manager of the Higley Horse & Mule Co. Lambertz was himself a long-time Pioneer Band cornet player.

The band soon suffered another blow with the July death of business manager (and tuba player) Frank Coyle, who had been one of the leaders of the band since it incorporated in 1890. Coyle’s death left James Shott as the longest-tenured member, along with George Stewart and Alex G. Figueroa, who had been members for about ten years. Shott took over duties as business manager.

Frank Coyle & Family

Shott was not particularly happy with Lambertz’ ability to fill Golze’s shoes, and in January of 1907 requested his resignation. This did not sit well with the rest of the band, who had come to like Lambertz’ leadership. On January 29th the players called a meeting, determined to oust Shott. The vote was 25 to 2 in favor of reorganization. The resulting conflict was best summed up by the mutineers’ open letter in the February 2 edition of the Arizona Republican, entitled “Discord in the Band”:

At a meeting of the Pioneer Band, on the regular rehearsal night, Tuesday of this week, a complete reorganization of the band and election of new officers was called for, and adopted, by a majority of the twenty-five members present, over two opposed. Mr. James Shott, the former manager, refuses to turn over the books, keys, and property of the band, claiming that he runs the band. This will doubtless be a surprise to the business men of the town who have thought they were contributing to the band as a whole. The fact is that the band has never been run on business principles, had no business meetings, and none of the members know except by accident, who has been contributing to the support of the band.

Mr. Shott has consulted an attorney and claims he will be able to hold possession of the property of the band, although we, the band boys, have been advised by a legal gentleman that he will not.

Mr. Shott demanded the resignation of Mr. Lambertz, the present leader, without consulting us at all. He considers himself virtual dictator of the band. We as a unit, are more than satisfied with Mr. Lambertz, and very much resent Mr. Shott’s presuming to discharge the leader on his own authority.

We hope Mr. Shott will recognize the authority of the majority of us, to decide that is best for the band, but if not, the band with the exception of the disturbing element, will continue as a band and do the best we can to get subscriptions which will be for the support of the band as a whole, and no one member will, in future [sic], have entire charge of this money and of the band. Mr. Shott refuses to turn over the subscription list and we, therefore, request that all contributors will kindly let their identity be known.

The letter closed with a listing of the 25 members voting to reorganize. The next day, Shott’s response appeared in the paper under the headline “Mr. Shott’s Side of the Controversy: He is still at the Head of the Pioneer Band, Notwithstanding Contrary Reports.” It continued:

J. M. Shott, manager of the Pioneer band, replying last night to a communication in The Republican by a faction of the band, said that it was a misstatement that he had concealed the business affairs of the band from any one entitled to the information. He says that the list of contributors to the band is an open book, and that the cash account of the organization is always in balance and open for inspection by members and by all others interested in the band.

He especially invites the parents of the younger members of the organization to make an inspection of it.

Regarding the discharge of Leader Lambertz, he said that he had employed him himself and finding his services unsatisfactory, requested his resignation. This schism in the band he says, is not a serious one. He has received a letter from Professor Geo. Golze, who was leader of the band for eight years and who Is now at Decatur. Ill. He is desirous of returning to Phoenix and of accepting his former position.

The mutineers would not stand for Shott’s apparently authoritarian view of the organization, and on March 4th, the group of 27 filed suit against four defendants, including James Shott, his brother Jake (who has no other apparent band connection), George Stewart, and Alex Figueroa. The whole dispute was heading to court.

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