The Dodworth Saxhorn Band (DSB), headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is America's Premier 19th Century Brass Band. Presenting performances in the context of the social and political issues of the time, the DSB recreates the music and atmosphere of a 19th Century community brass band.
Formed in 1985 by musical instrument collector Alexander Pollock, the DSB was originally created as a living history project. The Band is modeled after the Dodworth Band of New York City, which was the premier brass band in the United States from the 1840s to the 1880s. The original Dodworth Band was directed by brothers Allen and Harvey Dodworth who were among the most highly respected musicians and bandmasters of the 19th Century.
In keeping with its living history origins, the DSB uses only brass and percussion instruments that were built in the 1800s. The antique horns are conical-bore instruments commonly called "saxhorns". These handmade saxhorns are pitched higher than modern 21st Century brass instruments and produce a uniquely mellow tone. This class of brass instruments was invented in the early 1800s by Belgian instrument maker, Adolph Sax. Around 1840, Allen Dodworth modified them into backward facing instruments nicknamed "back'ard blasters" for use by U.S. military bands that traditionally marched ahead of the infantry and cavalry units. These modified saxhorns were used extensively during the Civil War. Following the war, many musicians returned home with their instruments and formed local community bands that played for occasions varying from funerals to political rallies. The DSB and its members currently own and play more than 60 of these period instruments.
The band performs 19th century music including compositions and arrangements from the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress, private collections and university libraries as well as a few new arrangements by musicologists who are experts in 19th Century brass band style and instrumentation. Our library contains nearly 230 arrangements for full band, another 30 for quintets, four collection books and 30 carols. One of our supporters also has an extensive library of period music on which we can draw.
The DSB's programs are composed of scripted segments that address many of the social and political issues of the era, including immigration, the suffrage movement, the civil war and opera. Through music and dialog, the DSB offers a wide variety of family-friendly shows that educate, entertain and involve audience members of all ages.
The DSB has a year-round performance and touring schedule. Past performances include Ken Burns' ten part PBS documentary "Baseball" and a subsequent performance for "An Afternoon of Baseball" at the White House at the invitation of President and Mrs. Clinton. The DSB was also heard in Ken Burns' series "Jazz". The band has performed at the Great American Brass Band Festival, Danville, KY; The Tall Stacks Festival, Cincinnati, OH; the Victorian Ball for the centennial of the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MI; Greenfield Village/Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI; Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library, Fremont, OH; Midland Center for the Performing Arts and H.H. Dow Museum, Midland, MI; International Trumpet Guild, Akron, OH; the 1993 Baseball Hall Of Fame induction ceremonies, Cooperstown, NY; Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association; University of Michigan School of Music, Ann Arbor, MI; Thanksgiving Day Parade, Detroit, MI; Golden Age of Bands Festival, Vermillion SD; New Growth Arts Festival, Indiana, PA; The Calumet Theater, Calumet, MI The Cheboygan Opera House, Cheboygan, MI. The band has appeared on Detroit Public Television's "Backstage Pass" and NPR's Weekend Edition.
Over the course of its history, the DSB has recreated the St Johns, Michigan High Wheel Bicycle Band, circa 1886-1891, which in turn generated a new spin off high-wheel bicycle band, the W.P. Cyclone Magnificent High Wheel Band. The DSB has also been involved in recreations of a circus band riding on an elephant, taken from a turn of the century photo of the J. E. Henry Circus Band, and a 19th century circus band performing in an antique band wagon pulled by a trick mule team.
The DSB has released two CDs "Grafulla's Favorites", New World Records, the music of Claudio Grafulla, one of the master composers and arrangers of 19th century brass band music, and "Home Sweet Home", a self-produced compilation of 19th century instrumental and vocal music. The CDs have received high praise in record industry reviews.