The first bands, during the Middle Ages, were groups of wandering minstrels and players, who joined together whenever they met at fairs and state occasions. As time went on, these groups became organized, and were supported by the rulers of European kingdoms, duchies and states. Town-supported, or “municipal,” bands began to appear by the year 1200, and as early as 1288, in Vienna, the first musicians’ guild, or “union,” was formed.
This was the Brotherhood of St. Nicholas, a society of professional bandsmen. The idea spread, and soon there were bands in most of the cities of France, England, Germany, and Italy. These were also the first military bands, for their purpose was to inspire soldiers in the field, and to give them a marching beat. Soon after the invention of the pistonvalve (see the article on TRUMPET) for brass instruments, a German bandleader named Wilhelm Wieprecht began to use these instruments in the Prussian army bands.
This was about 1830, and marked the birth of the modern military band. During the next few years a Belgian instrument maker named Adolphe Sax (the inventor of the saxophone) introduced his new “Saxhorn” into the French military bands, and this horn became a!n important band instrument. The earliest military bands in the United States were fife-and-drum corps, but in 1802 the Marine Band added wind instruments. Although all the armed services have their own bands, the Marine band is the official military band of the United States. It makes its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and it furnishes the music for most important government ceremonies.
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