History of the BN-Community Concert Band

The Bloomington Normal Community Concert Band (CCB) has been entertaining the public in the twin cities since 1978. The Band expanded on a musical tradition that has been in the twin cities for more than 150 years. The newly researched story of the CCB’s history describes the initiation and development of the CCB with some comments on the bands that preceded CCB and other musical groups today. 

CCB’s story  has been gleaned from records provided by the City, the McLean County Historical Museum, online issues of the local newspaper, and from band members, as well as from interviews of current and previous band directors and band members. This is an ongoing project; additional information is welcomed.  Read the full narrative of CCB’s history. 

The CCB thanks Dr. Robert Fisher for researching and writing this history as well as all those who contributed memories and documents from the past.

Band Commissions

The CCB premiered two new band works in 2014, both commissioned  in memory of two long-time band members:  John Fesler and Dick Veselack.  

Robert Sheldon composed Bright Lights dedicated to John Fesler and commissioned by CCB from donations given in memory of John.

Erik Morales composed Fantastic Journey dedicated to Dick Veselack and commissioned by his life-long friend and music education colleague, Paul Rosene 

CCB’s Origins

The CCB is always looking for historical tidbits about community bands in the Bloomington-Normal area and the current B-N Community Band, as well as old photos of the bands, and even some old recordings that we might convert small audio clips of to digital form to share. 

The CCB in its present form started in 1978 with Dr. Paul Rosene as its director. On the right is an historical photo provided by Paul Rosene.  He also provided some comments about the CCB's beginnings and history:

My "farewell" concert with the CCB was April, 1990.  We featured a commissioned work at that program, and brought the composer from California to conduct. 

I became the conductor and director, officially, in January 1978.  The community had tried to form a Town & Gown Band several years prior but it never really got off the ground successfully.  The cooperation we received from the various businesses in B-N area was so gratifying.  We had shared concerts with Parkland Community College, the Community College in East Peoria and also the outstanding East Peoria High School Band.  The tradition of the Parkland Band shared concert continues every year.  We were also very active with the Westminster Retirement center in Bloomington, and they have continued to sponsor an annual concert.

The "highlight" of my years as conductor was participating in the "State Farm sponsored Christmas Program" held at the Atrium each year.  Working with Dick Benson, the Community Band was  featured so well in the early version of that annual event. I felt that the CCB contributed to the amazing success and popularity of that annual presentation.  

Paul Rosene, Orlando, Florida (January 2007)

Bloomington-Normal has had a community or municipal band for over a 100 years.  The photo above is from around 1915—best guess.  If anyone recognizes anyone in this photo, the date it was taken, the location, or other interesting facts, please contact the band. 

The Original Bloomington Municipal Band c. 1915?

Image of Old Municipal Band

We’ve asked, Dr. Paul Rosene, founding conductor of the present-day BN Community Concert Band and 1940s alum of Illinois State University, to offer reflections on this unique photo given his history with music in the community.  Here are some of his thoughts on the photo:

The photo you sent is in good condition and I am struck by the "Rain Catcher" bass in the back. Therefore, the photo must be sometime in the early 1900's. Sousa asked Conn instrument company to come up with a better bass instrument than the Helicon bass.  He didn't like the "thin sound" from that small bore brass instrument which everyone called the "Helicon.” So, Conn contacted James Pepper, brass specialist, to create the "better bass instrument."  Pepper came up with the larger bore bass and called it the “Sousaphone" and Conn began to produce them around 1890 or so. Everyone thought that it was invented so the bass could be carried easily and used as the band marched, but Sousa's bands actually only marched once!  Sousa just wanted MORE bass sound for the bands!  Evolving from the "rain catcher" came the bell front model and then gradually from a small bell size of 22 inch until 1924 or so when it was expanded and made into the "bell front” or the 26 inch bell front model that we know today. I learned much of this while I was in the Air Force Band system.  

I also noticed some metal clarinets in the photo and the Bloomington Municipal Band had the very colorful uniforms!  We used to call these kinds of uniforms "gaudy."  Therefore, the photo must have been taken in the early 1900s and prior to 1924, because of the "Rain Catcher" bass horns shown!  (March 24, 2018)

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