Crystal Band of Scranton
The Crystal Band of Scranton is celebrating their 134th anniversary in 2013. The Crystal Band has long been a part of the music tradition in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Organized as a boy's brass band in the Petersburg section of Scranton in 1879, the original group counted 17 members. At the turn of the century, regularly performed in Nay Aug Park on Sunday afternoons, under the direction of Thomas Matthews. However, with America's entrance into World War 1, many of the young musicians went off to serve their country and the group disbanded. In 1879 the phonograph was only 2 years old, and live bands were the main source of entertainment. Also the Civil War had ended only 14 years earlier. A.J. Schrader a prominent businessman in East Scranton, and had a bottling works company in the rear of his home in the 900 block of Wheeler Ave. and offered the boys rehearsal space. They later increased in members and moved to the Y.M.C.A. George Schultz, a grocery and dry goods emporium owner, a father of one of the original members, purchased uniforms for the boys. At first, Nay Aug Park was a popular place for concerts, and audiences grew steadily. The band disbanded for a period of time During WW1 when most of it's members were serving their country.
During the height of World War 2, the band was reorganized and membership was opened to men and women. Previously, the band was a boys brass band. Fourteen girls joined the band. There were 32 boys and girls during the re-organization, Two of the boys at that first rehearsal in July of 1943, brothers Ralph and George Lutz still play with the Crystal Band today. The band was re-organized during WW2, on July 23rd, 1943 by Charles Mayer, at the Immaculate Conception Chapel, later they practiced at the YMCA, and then Elm Park Church. Kenneth Zupp directed the Crystal Band from 1943 - 44, then, Charles Reber became director in 1944 -1956. and Ronald Perry 1956 - 57. Earl Brink directed the longest for 29 years, from 1957 - 1986. Recent directors have included Larry Hughes 1986 - 1998, Tom Frew, from 1998 - 2002, and Raymond Stedenfeld from 2002 - 08. The Crystal Band is under the current direction of Doreen Hughes Ignatovich since 2008 until present.
Some more interesting history of the band. In the bands historical archives, a newspaper article from "The Scrantonian" in 1961 states, "There is some interesting history connected with the organization of the Band in 1879. A group of East Scranton young men met at the quarters of Relief Engine Co. No. 3, located now in the 1400 block of Ash St. They had attended a dance the night before, at which the engine company band had put on a great performance. They had enjoyed the band so much, they decided to form a band of their own. The first rehearsal was held in the original A.J. Schrader's home in what is now the 900 block of Wheeler ave. with Thomas Matthews as the conductor. The musicians were, Charles Hussing, Charles Ferber, Philip Schmidt, George Schultz, Edward Fries, Henry Schultz, Frederick Kleeman, Philip Hartman, Edward Wenzel, Henry Baustein, Henry Kleeman, William Matthews, Fred Hoffman, William Mourey, Fred Waltz, and Fred Hartman. The band flourished, and played an important part in community life until World War 1, when, with so many regional young men serving their country, it became difficult to obtain enough musicians to carry on. After a lapse of two decades, the band was reactivated on July 23, 1943 largely through the efforts of Edward Fries and George Schultz, charter members of the original band, and Charles Fickus, also a member of the former band. Since the band had kept busy answering requests for concerts and participation in parades, the band had acquired a rehearsal hall in the penthouse of the Scranton YMCA. (Young Men's Christian Association.) Richard A. Hames was the incumbent president and manager of the band, which over the years, and has made a substantial contribution to the cultural life of the community."
In another newspaper article, "The Scrantonian" Sun., April 18, 1965. 'The Crystal Band will give its seventh annual concert at Technical high school auditorium May 1 at 8 p.m. with Mrs. Jeanne Madden Martin, stage, screen and radio star, as guest soloist. H. Earl Brink will conduct. Mrs. Martin is a Scranton native, and a graduate of Central high school. she played in three motion pictures, including "Stage Struck" where she starred opposite Dick Powell, then went to Broadway for the musical comedy, "Knickerbocker Holiday" in which she co-starred with Walter Hudson. She also appeared in summer operas, including performances with the Kansas City Philharmonic orchestra, and Chicago Opera Company, and at the Kansas State College, she appeared in the singing of "The Creation" at the Hays Festival. Crystal Band was organized in 1879; Earl Brink has been its director since 1958. The organization rehearses Monday's at 7:30 p.m. at the YMCA.'
A concert poster for the eighth annual spring concert, Saturday, April 30th 1966 stated, "The Crystal Band has provided for young people of the arena an organization, where they might extend and develop their musical abilities, under capable leadership, and with no cost or obligation to themselves. With a sense of community pride and service, The Crystal Band has provided concerts for guests of our many charitable institutions has presented an annual series of summer outdoor concerts, in the city of Scranton and neighboring communities, and has sponsored and presented benefit concerts to raise additional funds for local charities and worthwhile community endeavors. Truly, the purpose of the Crystal Band are community in nature. This has always been the spirit of the Crystal Band, and with your help, the band will continue it's program of community service and cooperation. The Crystal Band of Scranton is incorporated under the Penna. Nonprofit Corporation Law of 1933. ( 1933, May 5 P.L. 289) as amended and supplemented, and under a ruling of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, The Crystal Band has been classified as a Federal tax exempt organization as described in section 501 (c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954."
In the summer of 1975, The Crystal Band toured Romania as "Friendship Ambassadors". They played 12 concerts to audiences exceeding 1600 patrons, during a three week, 15,000 mile tour. "Crystal Band Week" in 1975 was " By proclamation of the mayor of the city of Scranton, Eugene H. Peters, The week of April 27th will be observed as 'Crystal Band Week' in recognition of the band's contribution to the music to the community over the last 95 yrs and it's present honor of being invited by the President of Romania to give a 3 week tour this summer." In the summer of 1975, the Crystal Band was invited to Romania by the President of Romania, Nicolae Ceasescu at that time, To Romania, a communist country, behind the "Iron Curtain", for a 3 week tour including 12 concerts thru many towns including Bucharest, Slavanic Moldova, Neptune, and the Black Sea covering over 15,000 miles, sponsored by the "Friendship Ambassadors." Then, The Crystal Band hosted a group of Romanians, the "Crown of Carpathians", a folk ensemble, during their tour of the United States. Both bands also played a joint concert together.
The 'George Lutz German Band' also performed around that time period, one of the members that reorganized the band in 1943 and still plays with the band, and in the historical pictures page of our website, there is an advertisement of George's band playing at "The Globe" store in Scranton. Our Current director Doreen (Hughes)Ignatovich, also was a featured soloist on french horn, in 1977 at the Spring Concert. Some other interesting concerts around that time were Camp Hill correctional facility, William Penn Museum in Harrisburg, and West Point. John "Manny" Winters, was also a member who helped with the band's re-organization, and played in the percussion section. He was also the manager, in the 1980's, and collected much of the historical material we have today. Also in our historical records, many personal letters to the band were found expressing enjoyment of various performances.
Raymond Stedenfeld, a former conductor, was the guest Tuba soloist for the band's 100th year anniversary and 21st annual spring concert, Sunday April 22, 1979 @ North Pocono High School Auditorium. He was one of the members in 1975 who toured Romania. He is a Music teacher at Western Wayne High School.
Larry Hughes was another former director of the Crystal Band. He joined the band in 1965 and in 1971 became associate conductor under Earl Brink. In 1986 he took over the positions of music director and conductor. He played professionally as a trumpeter with the Exact Change band. He was the principal trumpet with St. Peter's Cathedral Brass Quartet. He was a business owner with his wife Debbie, owned and operated ' L.F. Hughes Co.' music store, and also gave private lessons. Larry's unexpectedly passed away in 1998, and his wife Debbie still runs the music store today, now, 'Main Street Music.' in Scranton. Thomas Frew had been the associate conductor with Larry, and then in 1998 took over as Director of the band until 2002. He is a Music Director at West Scranton High School. Larry's sister Doreen has now taken over as conductor and musical director. Several of her children also play in the band, and we have several other families that come together as a group to play with us, making the Crystal Band a part of their family's traditions.
The band had done fundraisers over the years, had dinners, had a parent's organization at one time to help with fundraisers, and the members even sold light bulbs and had a car wash to raise money. Our largest fundraiser today is our ad booklet which is passed out at all of our concerts. We look for local businesses each spring to advertise with us and support our volunteer community organization and local live music. The Crystal band has always been all volunteer and greatly supported by the community.
The Crystal Band Plays at a wide variety of events during the summer and holiday seasons throughout not only Lackawanna, but also Luzerne and Wayne counties. For example, we are the featured performance group at Honesdale's annual 4th of July celebration. In addition to performing at local community events at parks, churches, and social functions, The band has also performed at local nursing homes, bringing live music to many who might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy live music. The band was featured twice on WNEP-TV Channel 16 "Christmas All Night" program aired on Christmas Eve. The band asks for a donation used for uniforms, music, and other expenses specifically needed to keep our all-volunteer community band continuing to perform for our community. We appreciate our local community support to keep live music alive.