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The Dodworth Saxhorn Band is a re-creation of one of America's first all-brass bands. The original Dodworth Band dominated the New York music scene from 1836 to 1891, performing in concerts, at balls, at social events, at political rallies, and in many US presidential inaugurations. Today's Dodworth Saxhorn Band, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, uses antique brass valved horns and drums built between 1840 and 1880. In 1838, Allen Dodworth, the leader of the Dodworth Band, invented the first valved horn with a bell pointing backwards, for military use. When a band marched at the head of a column of soldiers, the "back'ard" bells made it easier for the music to be heard.
In the 1840s, Adolphe Sax, a Belgian instrument maker working in Paris, developed a family of bell up valved brass horns (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass). Sax's innovation inspired the production of similar families of instruments in the US. Such horns were widely referred to as "saxhorns." 19th century brass band instruments are generally more difficult to play than modern instruments, especially as regards intonation; however, they produce a uniquely homogeneous sound that is often described as "sweet" and "mellow". The horns are conical in shape and handmade of softer and thinner metal than most modern horns. The drums are made with wooden shells and heads of animal skins held on by rope tension, making them sensitive to fluctuations in humidity and temperature.
The Dodworth Saxhorn Band creates fun and excitement through 19th century authenticity. The ensemble of up to 17 members dresses the part, performs music from that period on original instruments, and uses drama, poetry, dance, and audience participation to help bring America's musical past to life.
The Dodworth Saxhorn Band performs in schools, universities, theaters, orchestra halls, and opera houses throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United States and Canada. The Band also plays regularly at Greenfield Village of The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. Performances include parades, Victorian Civil War balls, historical re-enactments, living history events, and vintage baseball games.