Director Albert Nacinovich continues legacy of historic Repasz Band
Williamsport’s own internationally-acclaimed and historic Repasz Band continues to entertain and educate audiences throughout central Pennsylvania. Founded in 1831, as the Williamsport Band and renamed in the 1850s after their director, Daniel Repasz, the Repasz Band and has been in continuous existence for 187 years.
The Repasz Band’s members are life-long musicians, ranging from advanced high school students to mature musicians in their 80s. A total volunteer organization, the band rehearses weekly throughout the year, presenting holiday and spring formal concerts, with approximately 12 summer performances through the Susquehanna Valley.
Today, Repasz Band senior director Albert J. Nacinovich wonderfully and skillfully leads the band, sharing conducting duties with Mr. Jeffrey Dent, and their two newest assistant directors, Miss Jessica Lewis and Mr. Theodore Lentz.
Nacinovich is the 20th director of the Repasz Band, after joining the band in 1970. He became assistant director in 1972, was named director in 1982, and is now the longest serving director in the band’s history.
“Our band is recognized to be one of the oldest, continually-serving non-military bands of our nation and it has been a participant in several historical national events,” Nacinovich said.
During his years in Williamsport, Nacinovich has performed with local dance-show bands, Billtown Brass and as a church musician. He was employed by the Williamsport Area School District for 36 years as a teacher of instrumental music, including 10 years as high school band director and 16 years as coordinator of instrumental music. He retired from the district in 1996, and continued private studio teaching until 2004.
Nacinovich holds degrees in music education from Mansfield State College, now Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, and Ithaca College. He served the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association as a district and state officer, including a term as state president from 1984-86. In 1990, Nacinovich was named to the Music Alumni Honor Roll of Mansfield University and in 2009 was named to PMEA’s “Hall of Fame” for contributions to music education in the state.
The Repasz Band began as a relatively-small professional band whose reputation spread throughout the state.
“We have evolved into a much larger community band known throughout the country and, thanks to the ‘Repasz Band March,’ we are known throughout the world,” Nacinovich said.
The band became known as “The Repasz Band” in 1859, named after a dynamic early director, Daniel Repasz. The group served three enlistments as a Union Band in the Civil War, including members playing at the time of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, in 1865. In 2015, the Repasz Band was invited by the National Park Service to be part of the opening ceremony of the 150th Anniversary Event at Appomattox.
The Repasz Band also performed at many other historic events, including the presidential inauguration parades of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. In 1897, the band participated in the dedication of Grant’s Tomb in New York City. They were invited back, as “Living History,” to the program of re-dedication in 1997.
From 1935 to the early 1980s, the band was given the use of rooms in the Elks Lodge No. 173. When the Elks moved from their building to smaller quarters, the band left the sponsorship of the Lodge and rehearsed for several years at the Pine Street Methodist Church. In November 1987, the band was moved to Williamsport City Hall, renting storage rooms and using the Sechler Community Room for rehearsal.
“Our band roster currently includes over 70 musicians, who come in to rehearsal at City Hall on Tuesday evenings from eight counties,” Nacinovich said. “During the summer we generally convene about 50 or more members for our series of area concerts.”
In 1997, Nacinovich helped organize a local band in the “New Horizons” band project inWilliamsport. The program is a beginning, or in some cases, a returning band experience for adults over 50 years of age.
The Repasz Band presents two main concerts at the Community Arts Center: one in the spring and the other during the holiday season in late November or early December. These programs are always free admission and expenses are funded by the donations received from sponsors of the summer concerts.
“We hope to finish our summer season with favorable weather conditions, including the re-scheduled Brandon Park concert on (Saturday),” Nacinovich said. “For the remainder of the year, we are currently considering a second joint concert with the Lycoming College Band in early November and working on developing the program for our annual Holiday Concert at the Community Arts Center on Tuesday, December 11th.”
In case of rain, Saturday’s concert will be held at First U.M. Church-Christian Life Center, 601 Market Street.
Another upcoming event sponsored by the Repasz Band is the Liberty Classic Community Band Festival and its concluding concert on Sunday, October 7. Many of the band’s members will be included in the approximately 120 musicians from all over the country who will work under retired US Air Force Band director, Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel for the weekend. The concert will be at the Community Arts Center and is free to the public.
The Repasz Band has been discussing the possibility of inviting guest conductors to appear with the band and are always open to continuing opportunities related to their historic past.
“We hope to continue to see new, younger members wanting to join the band and continue its musical growth,” Nacinovich said. “In another 13 years, we expect to celebrate our 200th year of music-making in our region.”