Repasz Band earns state historical marker

SUN-GAZETTE FILE ART The above drawing illustrates the Repasz Band as it appeared in the Civil War.

They’ve performed at two presidential inaugurations. They witnessed Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, at the end of the Civil War. And now the Repasz Band, the nation’s oldest continuously operating band, is being honored with a state historical marker.

The local band recently was told that it was one of only 18 organizations, people and places in Pennsylvania to be awarded a marker this year by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Nancy Escheid, the band’s publicity manager, this week told the Sun-Gazette that her organization worked really hard to obtain the marker.

The application process was “intense,” she said, noting the amount of historical documentation they were required to submit as part of the process. It’s not done yet, she said, noting more work is needed before the marker is installed.

The band hopes it will be installed in Brandon Park near Packer Street and will go to City Council next week for approval. The Brandon Park Commission gave the go-ahead this week.

Once everyone is on board, the band will set a dedication date for some point after June. Besides completing paperwork, it also has to raise funds for the marker.

“It has to be completed by June,” Escheid said — and that includes raising the funds. If the final needs for the paperwork are not met, the band’s application will be withdrawn.

Established here in 1831, the Repasz Band’s first national performance was in 1844 during the convention when Henry Clay was nominated to become president of the United States.

Since then, they have had many monumental performances.

They were in the inaugural parades for two presidents: Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 and William Howard Taft in 1909.

They played at the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox and returned there in 2015 for the 150th anniversary of the event that ended the Civil War.

They’ve performed at the original dedication of President Ulysses S. Grant’s tomb in 1987 and also 100 years later, at the rededication of the tomb in New York City.

The band was named after its fourth director, Daniel Repasz, a Clinton County native, and is known for the Repasz Band March, something that’s been with the band since inception but was copyrighted in 1901. It is said to be one of the most popular band marches in the world and has received many tributes, some unwritten and unpublished, but nonetheless respected.

Most recently, the band performed at the 2017 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association convention, an invitation-only convention, where community bands are rarely invited to perform, according to Escheid.

The band has 18 active or retired association members, including senior director Albert J. Nacinovich, a past president of the association and 2009 inductee to its Hall of Fame.