The La Crosse Concert Band has been a proud symbol of the Seven Rivers Region since 1917 bringing free, quality, multigenerational concert music to La Crosse's beautiful riverfront, and in so doing, providing educational opportunities both for the audience and for student and adult performers.
Some of the finest conductors in the area bring their own interpretations to the bandstand.
The La Crosse Concert Band's summer concerts have been a La Crosse tradition since 1930. Traditionally, we perform Wednesday night concerts during June and July in beautiful Riverside Park. Our concerts are always free to the public.
Attendees include families, young children, senior citizens and even out-of-town visitors drawn to great music in a beautiful park. Many make it "an evening" and dine out or shop downtown on concert night. We have a strong and loyal audience—typical average attendance is 1,000. Even when weather conditions prevent us from performing outdoors, our loyal audience joins us in the Central High School auditorium. Riverside Park, however, is always our favorite place to perform and our audience's favorite venue as well!
These free musical evenings are made possible by local organizations and businesses like you and the City of La Crosse. Please join us as we strike up the band on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. in Riverside Park. Each concert begins with the national anthem and features a children's march where youngsters join us to parade the aisles waving American flags. We hope to keep this valuable tradition alive for many years to come with the contributions from music lovers like you, and we look forward to your support during this coming concert season.
Click the link below to view a form which outlines how your gift would be recognized. You can also view past concert programs by using the Concert Archives menu. In addition to the printed programs, sponsors are recognized during the announcement prior to the Children's March, and then attention is called again to our sponsors at the close of the concert. Major sponsors are also listed on this website (see above).
We will be grateful for whatever level of support you can provide. Your tax deductible contribution will help provide free concerts for listeners of all ages. If you have further questions, please feel free to call Abbie Leithold-Gerzema, our Development Director, at 608-784-7555 (Tues.-Sat.) or email Abbie@LaCrosseConcertBand.org.Sponsor Levels
Currently, the band's expenses are funded through contributions from organizations and local businesses. Season sponsors receive recognition for their support in our printed weekly programs, by verbal acknowledgement at concerts and on our website.
Through the La Crosse Community Foundation, we have established a permanent endowment fund to assist with future operating expenses. Individual contributions from patrons are directed to this fund in order to ensure the future financial stability of the band.
Share the music with generations to come! Please consider giving a gift to the La Crosse Concert Band Endowment. Your contribution is tax deductible.
We have now established a PayPal account to accept Credit Card and PayPal donations.If you would prefer to pay by check, please follow the link below, print out the page and mail it to the address on the form.
As the bandshell in Riverside Park was nearing completion in the fall of 1930, a group of local union musicians began to seriously consider the idea of forming a concert band for the city of La Crosse. This group of citizens asked themselves what better way to honor Dr. Wendell A. Anderson, the founder of La Crosse's park system and two-time mayor, than to have a local city band perform on a permanent basis in the concrete bandshell named for him.
When the outdoor auditorium, designed by Otto Merman, was dedicated on September 14, Rudolph Kreutz, a local theater orchestra leader, organized a group that played for the occasion. Only small amounts of funds were available for occasional performances by local bands and the city did not support a regular schedule of park concerts. As a result, no band enjoyed long-term financial backing or incentive necessary for continual activity. In fact, when a Fall Music and Harvest Festival held in the new bandshell was funded by donations from local merchants, a band from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was hired to perform.
It wasn't until late in 1930 when D. Russell Wartinbee, director of music in the public schools, led a series of rehearsals and the La Crosse City Band was born. Radio concerts were given over WKBH in January of the following year and the band made public appearances to whet the appetite of La Crosse music lovers. A huge gala of dance and musical entertainment was held at the Avalon as a fundraiser for uniforms on February 11, 1931. Six orchestras donated their time and talent to the event which was "attended by hundreds of people" according to newspaper review which appeared the following day. A floor show, which included musical numbers and vaudeville stars, was performed by members of the Guy & Eloda Beach Stock Company. Guy Beach had arranged for the concert band to open some of the Beach Stock Company's shows when they performed at the Majestic Theatre.
Clad in blue broadcloth uniforms trimmed in red and white at a cost of $35 each, the 32 or so members of the La Crosse City Band marched in their first public function, the Memorial Day parade May 30, 1931. A public concert was also held later in the afternoon at Riverside Park. The members donated their time and talents were not paid for their performances until the June 9 concert. This was the first in a series of 19 city-sponsored outdoor appearances given at La Crosse public parks that year. Performances were mainly held at Riverside, Myrick, Copeland, and occasionally Pettibone parks, and the first season stretched from early June to September. The scheduled performances were given Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
The musical selections in the early days often included waltzes, marches, classical and popular pieces to appeal to a wide variety of listeners. Over time the band branched out and played in Onalaska, West Salem, Tomah Veterans' Hospital, Sparta, and occasionally New Albin, Iowa. The directorship role was assumed by D. Russell Wartinbee for the first couple of years. He continued to play while Edgar J. Roemheld, Edward Mumm and later Ed Norris picked up the baton for the Concert Band. Starting in 1939, Wartinbee again conducted the group for the next three decades.
The all male band tradition continued until 1969 when three women joined, although prior to this time many guest soloists were women. The original members all belonged to the American Federation of Musicians Local 201 and were paid 75 cents for each rehearsal attended and probably $1.50 for each performance in the early years. Up until 1947, the band was completely city sponsored and musicians earned $3 a concert. The name of the band was changed to La Crosse Concert Band when city support ceased.
By 1979 the band boasted an additional 20 members who played independently, mainly through the student apprentice program. In 1986 the bandshell was renovated and a concert was dedicated to charter member, Carl Rochelt. Rochelt played saxophone with the band from the beginning to the end of the 1986 season. Today the band is a highly professional organization with a limited number of student apprenticeships available to mature high school and college students.
As the city parks department funded fewer and fewer concerts, the group began to receive other funding through the Musicians Performance Trust Fund. The modern band presents about seven concerts a season on Wednesday evenings. Funding for the 1992 season were provided by Skogen's Food Stores, the Musician's Performance Trust Fund, Liz Goli-Rander, La Crosse Tribune, Trane Foundation, Ovation Marketing, and Jan Hoeschler.
In 2003 the Band sponsored its "Great Kazoo Caper" and organized the audience to play three songs on kazoos for the Guinness Book of World Records. The record was smashed the following year by a group in Quincy, Illinois.
The Band celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2005 and published a book by Susan Hessel called "More Power to You and the Band Boys: 75 Years of the Band Boys - and Girls - of the La Crosse Concert Band." The La Crosse Concert Band still treats listeners to a variety of musical delights at Riverside Park and has about 70 members.