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The NEW Pioneer Band

Vision of the Organizer 

I'm Bob Graham. I'm a downtown Phoenix historical architect, history wonk, and amateur brass musician and collector. This band idea is something of a personal cause of mine. I've come back to music after a thirty-six year hiatus, having quit  playing trumpet and piano halfway through college to build a career.



With three years of diligent rebuilding of the 'ol chops, I was ready to play in an ensemble of some sort, but the available opportunities didn't really appeal to me.  Most community bands in Phoenix are based in the suburbs, and I live downtown. I also really like the whole idea of reliving the early-twentieth-century band tradition that is described on these pages, and I don't see any downtown groups doing that. 


So,  in  October, 2021, we started this new band.  We are still welcoming more  like-minded people who see the appeal of this idea. Keeping in the spirit of the original, it's intended to be a mixture of  musicians, experienced and inexperienced, amateur and professional, just like when it was first organized in 1880.  And I see this as a fairly small group - again, the original Pioneer Band averaged about 15 people, and some community bands were much smaller!


I'm quite serious about the amateur part. While I rose to the ranks of the first trumpet section at ASU, I'm no music pro and don't pretend to be one.  If you played a band instrument in high school or college, or even grade school, and would like to get back into making music in a low-pressure, fun way, this may be for you.  But this should be enjoyable for more experienced players as well.


Here are some additional details of how the band has come together.



The new Phoenix Pioneer Band is open to every one without restriction to age, sex, race, etc. (Minors must have the approval of parent or guardian.) It is organized as a non-profit corporation governed by a small Board of Directors, who is elected by the membership. Thus, all band members have a voice in the direction of the organization.  We intend to pursue IRS 501(c)(3) status in the future.



This band focuses on the music played by American community bands (usually, "brass bands") between about 1880 and 1940. Fortunately, there is an almost unlimited supply of FREE public-domain music available on the internet.  If you want to see what I mean, check out the Band Music PDF Library.  Just poking around in there, I have found many old favorites and a lot of the music actually played by the PPB back in the day.

A lot of the music played by the original Phoenix Pioneer Band is known, as they often printed the programs in the newspaper. We may give preference to pieces like these, which more closely connect  this band with its historical model.

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The Instrumentation

This band can operate with a minimum range of instruments needed to make music but ultimately we're looking at a size of 10-20 players. The following list is a rough idea of what parts we'd like to cover. As I mentioned above, I collect vintage brass instruments, so if you would like to participate but lack the horn, I can provide many of the brass instruments:

  • Two B-flat cornets

  • One E-flat alto horn

  • One B-flat tenor trombone

  • One B-flat baritone horn/euphonium

  • One tuba

  • Two clarinets

  • Two flutes or piccolo

  • Percussion: snare and bass drum

Bonus instrumentation, also helpful and welcome; most of which the historic musical scores have parts for:

  • E-flat soprano cornet

  • E-flat tuba

  • Piccolo

  • Saxophones

  • Oboe, bassoon

  • Additional seats of ANY of the above.


Musical Direction

The group is small, and as essentially a chamber group, we do not have a dedicated conductor. In bands of the period, the lead cornetist (known as the "Solo Cornet") usually led the band, and we are generally following that model.


Time Commitment

Practice sessions are currently held on  Wednesday nights  (see the events page for details).   You don't have to make every one, but we hope you can make at least half the practices to play in performances. 

We plan on performing once or twice per month, depending on opportunities. We often play at the monthly First Friday event on Grand Avenue from October through April, and look for other venues to play as well.



Our rehearsal space is in the back of my studio at 1114 Grand Avenue. I expect the bulk of the gigs will occur on Grand or in the downtown area.  Downtown is where the history is, and where the arts/culture scene is open to groups like this.  

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