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History of the Sunbury City Band

The forerunner of what is now The Sunbury City Band began on February 11, 1895 and was called the Seven Cornets Band. The seven charter members were Urias Wolf, David Wolf, M.D. Barnhart, S. E. Gass, S. W. Neidig, H. E. Kniss, and Urias Bloom. The seven practiced in the hose house of the East Sunbury Fire Company and eventually changed their name to the East Sunbury Band.


Since then, the band has held its practices in buildings throughout the city. Other practice buildings include: the Friendship Fire Company, the Good Intent Fire Company, the William A. Shipman furniture store (1911-1975), the Sunbury Municipal Building, Friendship Fire company (for the second time), the Sunbury Middle School, Haines Music Store, and currently, the First Presbyterian Church. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the band also practiced outdoors at the farm of band member Jim Hoffman. Although practice space was provided by the organizations or individuals that owned these buildings, band members often had to remodel the facilities to make them suitable.


For many years, the band performed as three bands—the City Band, the Friendship Fire Company Band, and the Elk’s Band. The change of uniforms was cleverly accomplished. Each band was recognized by their unique, detachable shoulder patches; musicians simply changed patches according to the band they were representing at the particular concert.


The two world wars had a profound effect on the band as many band members served in the military. Those that were ineligible kept the band going while doing their part in the civilian war efforts. During World War I, 27 band members served in the military. During World War II, 40 band members answered the call, five of whom died in action.


The Sunbury City Band was an all-male unit for the first 77 years. In 1972, two young ladies, Joanne Yeager and Susan Sanders, were admitted to the organization. Ten years later, one-third of the band consisted of females. Today, approximately half the members are women. 


In the past, the Sunbury City Band has regularly performed in local holiday parades, the Sunbury Community Hospital fair, the Northumberland Historical Society celebrations, Sunbury Light Fest, and the Sunbury Memorial Day Service. In recent years, the band has also played an outdoor summer series in surrounding municipalities: Beaver Springs, Herndon, Lewisburg, Middleburg, Mifflinburg, Northumberland, Selinsgrove, and of course, Sunbury. Holiday performances are often played at nursing homes and retirement villages as well as Sunbury’s Degenstein Library. Each year, the band performs a special spring concert and a Christmas holiday concert. While Zion Lutheran Church in Sunbury is usually the venue for these formal performances, the band has also performed at First Presbyterian Church in Sunbury, Christ Wesleyan Church in Milton, Christ United Methodist Church in Selinsgrove, and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northumberland.


Gone are the days when local municipalities and fire companies sponsored the community bands. Yet, there continues to be a strong show of support for community bands in our region. The Sunbury City Band is indebted to the organizations, city and borough councils, churches, and retirement facilities previously mentioned. Without their support and cooperation, the band could not continue. Special thanks go to First Presbyterian Church, which provides our practice hall, Zion Lutheran Church, which regularly provides our concert venue, and The Degenstein Foundation, which supports us financially. 

Directors of the Sunbury City Band

Urias Wolf

Elmer Bloom

Kimball Campbell

Clyde Zimmerman (29 years)

Joseph Nesbit

Lee Donachy

Frederick C. Lowe (1946-1973)

Ronald DeLong (mid 70’s-1984)

Nevin Garrett (1984-1986)

Russell Williams (1986-1990)

Phil Kacianic, interim (1990)

Kevin Styer, interim (1991)

Charles “Perry” Wilcock (1991-1994)

Krista Steinhart and Kevin Styer (1994-1995)

Kevin Styer (1996-2011)

Tom Gegenheimer (2012-present)

John Collins, interim (2023)


1895— Seven Cornets Band began.

1933— Charter member of the Pennsylvania Bandmasters Association (PBA).

1966— Arthur M. Winters conceived the idea of playing parades while riding on a flat-bed trailer truck.

1972— First two women members admitted.

1988— Director Russell Williams conducted 125 musicians at the first concert of the Mid-Penn Band—a composite of all the community bands in the region.

1994— Played at dedication of Commonwealth marker in Cameron Park that memorialized Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

1995— 100th Anniversary concert at Zion Lutheran Church.

2010— First compact disc recording of “Street Marches.”

2013— Reorganization and relocation of music library just a year prior to a fire at Friendship Hose, the previous location.

2020— Spring and Christmas concerts both cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic. Several summer concerts played outdoors.  Christmas concert recorded outside at Jim Hoffman’s farm, then placed on YouTube.

2023— Performance of our first commissioned piece, “Souls of Heaven” by Steven Melillo during the 125th Anniversary concert. 

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