Early Years
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The City of St. Joseph was incorporated in 1834.  At that time, there were about 2 homes in the city and most were located below the bluff.
Little information is available about a band until around 1898, though
it is known that in 1870 there were two businesses that sold musical
instruments located in the city.

The shell that was in existence in 1898 was an "old county band stand", with a circular design, open sides and a roof.  It was located somewhere between Pleasant St. and the current band shell.

The second shell was built during the term of office of Mayor Edgar Aber, who was May in 1907, 1908 and 1910.  The following is an excerpt
from the St. Joseph Daily Press,".. The building will rest on cement and
steel and will have a 24 foot high wall from Vine Street.  The band
stand will be constructed mostly of cement with only the roof portion
being build of wood.  Plans call for the structure to be 30 feet wide
with an open front and sides, while the back facing Vine Street will
have shutters which can be closed in case of a storm."  This second band shell was completed in 19100 and sat on the bluff at the foot of
Pleasant Street.  At this time the band consisted of volunteers.  The
band of St. Joseph was known as the Press Band and the Benton Harbor
Band was known as the Newsboys Band.  They played for concerts. Funerals and other events.  They were paid with money donated after the band serenaded business places and saloons.  They did not give concerts every Sunday in the summer, but mostly just on holidays.

In 1917 there were only about 17 pieces in the band, a band of 20 pieces was considered to be a large band.  In 1938 Franklin L. Wilste took over and organized a band of up to 40 pieces. In 1940 plans were initiated to remodel the structure.  The band stand ceased to exist and the band shell came into existence.  This structure was used until the mid-60's when it was inspected and found to be dangerous and deteriorating.  For two years the band played on a temporary apron in front of the band shell.  Musicians were unable to sit in the shell for fear of falling plaster.  The current John E. N . Howard Band Shell was completed in 1970.  The Port Street site was chosen for the new shell mainly for its view from that point of Lake Front Park, as it gives the concert-goer a view of Lake Michigan, the St. Joseph River, the harbor and Edgewater. 

Since the band became municipal (tax supported) it has had six directors.  Franklin L. "Red" Wilste directed the band from 1938-1944.  He was also the Director of the St. Joseph High School Band (at this time it was the policy that the director of the Municipal Band also directed the high school band). Wiltse retired from both bands in 1944.

In the summer of 1945 the municipal band was almost without a director, but just before the start of the season, the City found Van Kniebes. Kniebes came from Owosso, Michigan, where he was band director.  Later that year, Kniebes opened Kniebes Music Store.  He directed the band the summers of 1945 and 1946.  In the fall of 1946, Herschel Wallace was hired as band director at St. Joseph High school where he taught from 1946-1948.  In the 1947-48 school year, Wallace asked John E. N. Howard to be his assistant at the high school.  In 1947 Wallace accepted the position of Municipal Band Director and the following summer Wallace and Howard split the season, each taking half.  Wallace left at the end of that summer after being offered the position of Dean of Students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.


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City of St. Joseph Website
Last modified: June 30, 2001