33 Blawenburg Band ~ Since 1890

Print Blog 33

Note: This is a double-feature blog. In 1982, I wrote an article in Princeton Magazine about the Blawenburg Band. My source for that article was J. Percy Van Zandt, who was a highly regarded farmer and owner of the Van Zandt Company, a farm equipment dealership. Percy recalled his 55 years in the Blawenburg Band and gave insight from the point of view of a member of the band. My previous article is posted here as a PDF file for you to download and read.

Click here to read: A Musical Gift from the Past to the Present

For this blog, I looked at existing print materials related to the band, and I met with the current Blawenburg Band Director, Dr. Jerry Rife, to gain more information about this long-standing band that has brought so much joy to thousands of people.

When Dr. Jerry Rife picks up the baton to conduct the Blawenburg Band at its Anniversary Concert on May 17, 2020, he will be marking his 35th year as Director and the 130thanniversary of the band. The Blawenburg Band played its first performance in 1890.

The Blawenburg Band in 1901

Bands were a big deal in the late 1800s. There were no radios or other electronic music devices at that time. The only places you would hear music in the good ‘ole days was when you created it at home, listened to it in church, or went to a band concert. Bands were plentiful, and there were an estimated 20,000 bands throughout the nation. It seemed like everyone had bands – towns, churches, breweries, ladies’ groups, firemen, and even orphanages. But there was no band in the small village of Blawenburg.

David Hackler, in his book Music for the People - - The Blawenburg Band Goes for Two, notes that there were other active bands in the area before the Blawenburg Band began. There were two amateur bands in Princeton, the Jugtown Band and Farr’s Band. There was also a larger, well-funded, professional band known as Winkler’s Band in Trenton. None of these bands exist today.

Just how the Blawenburg Band began is somewhat of a mystery because in the early days either no records were kept or the records have been lost or destroyed. One story that seems to be a logical explanation stems from a Harvest Home event at Blawenburg Reformed Church. Harvest Home events took place