History Of The Ohio Military Band
The band traces its roots back to the late 1890s at the old 27th District School in Cincinnati’s West End. Lafayette Bloom, principal at the school, started a drum and Bugle corps named “The Lafayette Bloom Military Band”.
Pre Ohio Military Band Years
“The children of the Twenty-Seventh District School visited The Post and did some excellent countermarching. They were attired in blue suits, and their own drum corps, the ‘Lafayette Bloom’ accompanied them.” (The Cincinnati Post, May 31, 1897, p. 6.)
“The Twenty-Seventh District has also a finely uniformed drum corps of thirty-five pieces, of which Mr. Bloom, is President. The school is also forming a mandolin, guitar and violin orchestra of forty pieces, under the directorship of Mr. William Schaefer, First German Assistant. The school also has a library of four hundred volumes, a fine natural history cabinet, and’ a splendid collection of two hundred first-class magic lantern slides.” (History of the Schools of Cincinnati, 1900, p. 75.)
“The program for the entertainment by the Twenty-Seventh District School children in Music Hall Tuesday evening is as follows: March – ‘Caramba’, Lafayette Bloom Military Band. ‘The Jolly Coppersmith’ – Lafayette Bloom Military Band, ‘King Quickstep’ – Lafayette Bloom Military Band.” (The Cincinnati Post, September 23, 1901, p. 6.)
The Start of The Ohio Military Band
Thirteen members of the “Lafayette Bloom Military Band” desired to keep the group alive after leaving school and formed “The Ohio Military Band” in 1904 as a volunteer and social band.
Charles Diss was the first director of the band. The ranks quickly swelled to around 30 members, including August (Augie) Schaeffer, of the “First Regiment Band, O.N.G.” and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Schaeffer was a good friend and contemporary of Henry Fillmore. Augie provided Charles Diss and the band with first-rate instruction in bandsman-ship. Mr. Schaeffer was also a composer in his own right and eventually retired to Miami, FL, to be near his friend Henry Fillmore.
Early rehearsals were held at Bauer’s Cafe located at 1387 Harrison Ave, near the intersection of the Liberty St. Viaduct and State Ave. Lunch after rehearsals usually included rye bread, head cheese, onions, Kosher pickles, limburger cheese and lots of cold beer!
As the band grew in membership, new quarters were acquired for $12.00 a year at 210 Post Square. It was a fourth-floor loft with one electric light bulb and a warm morning oil heater above Schwartz’s Cincinnati Gold and Silver Refining Co. The band moved from Post Square in 1964 to make way for construction of the new Cincinnati Convention Center, (Duke Energy Center).
Other rehearsal sites have included: the Koch Embroidering Co. on W. 4th St. and also on W. 8th St.; a music store on Creek Rd. in Blue Ash; Wagner-Smith Electric Co. on W. Sharon Rd.; the Hamilton County Civil Defense Headquarters. near Drake Hospital; the Shadybrook National Guard Armory; the Springfield Township Community Center; and our current home, the Mt. Healthy United Methodist Church.
After Charles Diss (48 years), directors of the band have been Dave Davidorf, Fred Holmes, Elwin Tolle, Matt Quitter, Joe Fischer (39 years), Bruce Behlow, Jim Hissom, Fred Marzan, and our current director Mark Hensler (since 1994).
The Current Band
The band is supported through concert and membership contributions. The membership ranges in age from 18 to 97 years young and many of the members do have military experience. The band performs at retirement and senior centers, church festivals, community concert series, school functions, and other civic and social events. In 2024, the band will celebrate its 120th anniversary with a new march by composer Paul Murtha.
Ohio Military Band – “First Thirteen”
(average age 19)
- Stanley H. Czerwinski, 18, (1886-1946)
- Charles E. Diss, 21, (1883-1971) – First director.
- Carl F. Eckerle, 17, (1887-1957) – Served as Sergeant of the First Regiment Band, baritone soloist, drummer at Keith’s Theater, composer of “Cincinnati’s Own March”, 1917. Buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.
- Fred M. Hess, 18, (1886-1954)
- Joseph B. Hohmann, 19, (1885-1926)
- Leo C. Hug, 21, (1883-1967)
- John Keiffer, 19, (1885-1969)
- Leonard Miller, 21, (1883-1948)
- Edward Schmidt, 19, (1885-1951)
- Harvey Wehrly, 19, (1885-1969?)
- Harry (Hal) C. Weisel, 22, (1882-1952)
- J.J. Wintzinger, 18, (1886-1943)
- William Aubrey Witschger, (photo at right), 19, (1885- 1969), Shrine Band, Masonic Band, had own combo with his brothers. Helped start the Columbia YMCA band. Much of his music was donated to Mt. Healthy High School and is now in Mark Hensler’s private collection.
Cincinnati’s Community Band History
In 1908, the Cincinnati City Directory listed 33 Bands and Orchestras including the “Ohio Military Band”.
Of those listed in 1908, the OMB is the only one still in existence!