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Strike up the Band!

The Libertyville Band

The Libertyville Village Band is celebrating more than 30 seasons of music this summer, but the origins of a village band go back much farther than that. Although evidence is scant, some documentation reveals clues about a band that existed as soon as 1867. The earliest photo, dated 1898, features a small group of musicians wearing trimmed uniforms. Why the band commenced is a mystery, but one guess is that local musicians were recruited to play at the Lake County fairgrounds, located in Libertyville back then.
An article from the Independent Register dated September 3, 1909, verified that a village band played at the county fair, performed on Thursday evenings in the summer, offered indoor concerts during the colder months and performed at various other large gatherings. The band was dubbed Mitchell’s Military Band, after director George Mitchell. George was a Decatur, Illinois, optometrist who also had extensive musical experience.  His members wore outfits that resembled Spanish American War uniforms.  Any connection between band members and military service has not been discovered. George’s connection to Libertyville is also unknown, but a number of Mitchells resided in town at the time. The photo of a saxophone quintet pictured here shows George on the far right.

During the Jazz Age loose white uniforms replaced the military-style khaki uniforms and the renamed Libertyville Municipal Band thrived. In the 1930s Charles Nicholls assumed band leadership, assisted by F. T. Hiddleson.  According to log books held by the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society, the band used part of Ansel B. Cook’s water tower to construct a band shell. Years earlier Ansel had built a water tower for his personal use close to his home in what is now Cook Park. When a new large municipal water tower was constructed near the village hall, the old Cook tower was torn down. Band members cut a shell from the tank and moved the frame to Central Park creating a new performance area that amplified the sound of the instruments.

Percy Snow became director in the 1930s and the band survived the Great Depression. Two factors caused the group to disband: World War II commenced and the township stopped their financial support. More than thirty years passed without a local band.

Libertyville residents, Dick George and Terry Hatch petitioned the village board to reorganize the band in the mid-1970s. The band was approved and started performing under Gail Williams in 1977. At that time Gilbert Stiles was mayor and he and his wife were big supporters, faithfully attending concerts along with many village residents.

David Kublank assumed leadership of the band in 1978 and remained band director for 31 seasons. During this time the band established their tradition of weekly summer concerts and a Fourth of July show at Butler Lake. The Kublank family can boast a long association with the band. David’s father and uncle were band members in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Director Dustin Helvie took over for one season in 2009. New director Corey Ames has a few seasons under his belt as the summe of 2013 draws to a close. Make sure to join him and the whole band in Cook Park next summer to enjoy a tradition that is part of our past. 


Categories: Local History

Tags: Local History

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