A look at America’s First Town Band

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Mark Arsenault of Mason plays the euphonium in the Temple Town Band.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Gordon Estabrook of Sharon conducts a rehearsal of the Temple Town Band. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Dotsie Millbrandt of Mason plays the flute for the Temple Town Band.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Temple Town Band rehearses at the Temple Town Hall on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Historical photos of the Temple Town Band. Courtesy photos—

  • Historical photos of the Temple Town Band. Courtesy photos—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/30/2019 9:35:26 AM

The Temple Town Band gives a nod to its 220-year-old heritage each time they suit up for a concert, in traditional tri-corner hats and breeches. It’s not so far off what the band may have worn during its earliest known performance – when it played at a memorial for President George Washington in 1800.

The band practices weekly and holds regular performances said musical director Gordon Estabrook, but is a fairly casual group that encourages musicians of all levels to join. Their only requirement is at least two years of music study, no matter how long ago it happened.

The result is a wide range of musicians, ranging from teenagers learning their instrument in school, adults dusting off the instruments from their own school days, and highly accomplished and semi-professional musicians.

There are records of the band being in place as far back as Feb. 22, 1800, when they notably played at George Washington’s memorial service. Members believe the band was founded in at least in 1799, and was the first town band in America.

The band declined in membership after World War II, and disbanded around 1930. For about 45 years, the band was defunct, but it was revived in 1975 for the celebration of the nation’s bicentennial by Temple resident Lucille Longo.

“She was quite a lady,” said Lois Estabrook, the band’s manager and clarinet player. “If there was anyone new to Temple, the first thing she had to know was if they played an instrument.”

The Estabrooks were fairly new to Temple when they saw an advertisement Longo had put in the paper, seeking musicians to re-start the band.

The couple, who had met and fell in love while in the marching band at Colgate University, decided to join up. They have been with the band ever since.

Since its reforming, the band has played locally during festivals, formed a dance band to lead parties and dances, marched in parades, and even played for funerals. There have even been a few occasions where the band traveled to Washington D.C., once to march in the city’s Fourth of July parade in 1993, and at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the national mall in 1999.

But for the most part, the group is a social one, meeting weekly to practice a variety of sheet music for their list of summer events.

Another long-time member of the band is Dotsie Millbrandt of Mason, who joined the band in 1991 to play the flute. Her son Eric, a trumpeter, was also part of the band.

“I like that it’s nice and relaxed,” Millbrandt said. She learned the flute in school, and played in college and after school with a company band at her workplace, and for the church, but was always a casual player, she said. “We have some very talented musicians, but they never make you feel bad if you’re not at their level. We all have to learn our music, but it’s not competitive.”

It’s common, Lois said, for there to be couples or families who all join the band together – since it’s an all ages group, it’s a great bonding experience.

John Henderson, 15, of New Boston, joined the band because his father and brother both play in it. Henderson, a percussionist, said his whole family plays instruments, and he likes being able to play in the same band as his father, who plays the trumpet.

“It’s been a great experience,” Henderson said. “I like the music that we play, there’s always a great variety.”

Gordon said the band likes to mix together a sampling of the classic marching tunes with more contemporary music – this year, for example, in honor of the recent Queen biopic, the band is learning to play “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The band also has a few marches that were written for the group by local composers – “America’s First Town Band” by Jeff Henderson, “Temple Band” by Ray Krause and “March Lucille,” written by David Bailey in honor of Lucille Longo’s dedication to the group.

Millbrandt said in addition to being a social event for her, there is something that’s different about being able to play with a group, rather than practicing alone.

“There’s something special that happens with a group,” Millbrandt said. “The energy multiplies by the number of people you’re playing with.”

The Temple Town Band practices at the Temple Town Hall on Monday nights. For more information, find The Temple Town Band page on Facebook.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT. 


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