Thursday, August 14, 2014

Schenectady Musicians: A Look Back

The Schenectady Italian Band poses for this photo taken ca. 1910. The ethnic fraternal organizations that proliferated from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century emphasized social activities, and the array of dances, dinners, picnics, parades, and other celebrations they held often featured music. The Schenectady Italian Band played in the area for over 20 years before changing their name to the Western Gateway Band. Image from Larry Hart Collection. 

Music has been a part of community life in Schenectady County for as long as humans have inhabited the area. Music is a valuable means for people to communicate, educate, entertain, explore creativity, tell stories, preserve cultural traditions, ease the burdens of work, enhance events such as weddings, parades, and dances, motivate troops at war, and simply for fun and pleasure. Featured here are a number of images from our photograph collections that showcase music and musicians in Schenectady County.

Interested in learning more about Schenectady County's past in photographs? Visit our Library or contact our Librarian.

Salvation Army musicians perform on State Street in Schenectady in December 1986 to kick off their holiday season fundraising efforts. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

This photograph from June of 1925 shows Kalteux's Collegians playing at the dance pavilion in Schenectady's Central Park. A note on the back of the photograph shares a recollection of the concerts they played:  "That was the in the days of 10 cents a dance. The Union rate of the orchestra was $8.00 per night from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Three tough hours playing with no intermission. Any other night was $5.00 per man for three hours." Image from Larry Hart Collection. 

A crowd gathers around a band performing in front of the Hotel Vendome on State Street in Schenectady, ca. 1895. One brazen boy has inserted himself into the middle of the circle of musicians to get a better view. Image from Larry Hart Collection. 

Family bands were very popular and common in the early part of the 20th century, both for simple evenings at home and to share music with others. In this 1901 photo, members of the Wilson family pose with their instruments. From left to right are father Randall Wicks Wilson and his sons Byron Wilson, Archie Wilson, and Morris Wilson. The family lived on Shannon Street in the Bellevue neighborhood in Schenectady. The daughter of Byron Wilson wrote on the back of the photo that the family musical group "discontinued interest when jazz made its appearance." Image from Larry Hart Collection. 

The Schenectady City Band poses on the lawn at Union College in this photograph, taken ca. 1890. The Schenectady City Band is mentioned in local newspapers as early as 1865, the year that they played an Independence Day celebration in Schenectady. In addition to playing at local events, city and town band often traveled throughout the region to entertain in other locales. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

A German-American sextet plays music at the corner of State Street and Western Parkway in 1911. Around the turn of the twentieth century, some Schenectadians objected to street musicians and saw them as a nuisance. Commentary decrying the street musicians appeared in local newspapers around the turn of the century. Such articles and letters often employed a xenophobic tone, characterizing street musicians as low-class, ignorant, and unmistakably "foreign." Image from Larry Hart Collection. 

The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra poses on the stage of Mont Pleasant High School in this photograph, taken in February of 1936. The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra was a new organization at that time, having given their first concert a year earlier. Nearly 80 years later, the organization is still in existence today. The people playing in the orchestra include paid professional musicians and non-paid amateur musicians. Image from Larry Hart Collection. 

The Niskayuna Band poses in front of the Niskayuna Reformed Church in this 1902 photo. Image from Larry Hart Collection. 

No comments:

Post a Comment