Today's Fairbanks Community Band is part of a long tradition in Fairbanks history. Fairbanks
bands have existed almost continuously from the near the beginning of the 20thcentury.
But names and dates are subject to dispute; it all depends on whose memory you consult. Earliest
records document a town brass band in 1905 with nine members directed by Charles Westley. In 1909
Cowboy Band was organized, according to a 1950 concert brochure.
In 1914, William Gobracht organized and directed a band of 18 members. Some locals remember
Gobrecht returning to direct a community band in the 1950's when he was well into his 80's.
According to Chuck Grey, he was a
very tough instructor, with a heavy German accent.
In 1920 V.F.
Jake Jacobs took over leadership of the band until 1945. The band was in a
hiatus until 1948 when it was taken over by Kenneth Lauritzen, who invited William Gobracht back
to conduct some of the rehearsals and a concert or two. In the fall of 1950 Eva Myhre took over as
conductor of the community band, which finally had to disband in 1952 due to the Korean War.
In 1956 Tom Brady started the University Civic band comprising university students and community members, but no one remembers for how long.
From 1959 through 1961 Bob Boko ran a community Band with Jack O'Connor. In 1961 Jack left the state and Bob Boko took over the reins of the Lathrop High School Band Program. This was the end of a community band program in Fairbanks until the fall of 1994 when George Wiese, Band Director of West Valley High School, and Donald Hildie, Band Director of Lathrop High School, saw a need for a community band. They approached Tracy Gibbons, who was the director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Wind Ensemble, to see if he would have the time to conduct a community band as well. When he agreed to conduct, the three of them went to attorney Fred Brown to draw up a set of by-laws for the band and to apply for non-profit status. The band is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.
In 1997 Tracy left the University of Alaska and the Board of Directors asked then retired band director Bob Boko if he would take over the job as conductor. When Bob retired from the band in the spring of 2004, the Board turned to Donald Hildie, retired Lathrop Band Director. Don took the job of conductor/music director in the fall of 2004.
Don retired from the band after a farewell concert on October 22, 2006 and the baton passed to Ann Musco, a faculty member in the UAF Music Department and conductor of the UAF Wind Symphony. Ann was the director of music and conductor of the concert band until the summer of 2007.
At the end of the 2007 summer, Roger Ridenour took over as conductor of the concert band.
The following summer, Roger, expecting to be transferred out of state, resigned as director and was replaced by Ann Musco. Ann accepted a job Outside after a year and was, in turn, replaced by Wendy Ward, a music teacher in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Wendy left the band after the last concert in 2014. Beginning in January of 2015, the board appointed two conductors working together on an interim basis: Greg Balvanz and Will Rabun. Greg is a former army band leader; Will is a graduate student in music at UAF.
Contributors to this History:
Material from the Heartland section of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, page H-11, February 6, 1994, by Teri Camery, used with permission.