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The Blawenburg Band Still Thriving after 132 Years

By Mia Shou | May 26, 2022


Imagine the small rural village of Blawenburg in the late 1800s. Downtown consisted of a crossroad with a few shops. The entire population was about 200 people, who had no access to iPhones, cassette tapes, or any form of modern entertainment. However, one group managed to bring everyone together during such times and entertained without fail: the Blawenburg Band.

Jerry Rife, the Blawenburg Band’s conductor since 1984

Founded in 1890, the band was similar to the countless other concert bands performing on both the local and national levels then. It began with 18 members, and is still going strong today, with 75 members. Those 132 years were not easy — encompassing everything from the Spanish-American War to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, the band kept rehearsing and performing when possible. It is safe to say that its passion for music remains strong.


“I love to bring music to audiences,” said Jerry Rife, the band’s conductor since 1984. “[The band is] my family.” He noted that some members have been in the band for 30 years or more. Together, they are a tight-knit community that has remained strong through obstacles such as the deaths and the coming-and-going of members.


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“Over years and years and years, we really developed a friendship,” Rife said. “It’s irreplaceable.” These friendships were made possible through Rife’s hard work in building up the Band’s reputation by giving routine concerts during his 38 years as conductor. The quality of musicianship has increased, according to John Anastasio, the band’s concertmaster and principal clarinetist. The more the band played, the better it got. “Word gets around, and then more people wanted to come and play with us.”


The band has attracted a diverse range of prospective players, such as Anastasio himself, who has an extensive background in music that includes serving with the US Air Force Band. Furthermore, the band has provided individuals with opportunities to gain experience as musicians. For example, Anastasio was once able to re-arrange and play a solo for Sidney Bechet’s “Au Clair De La Lune” after the original version proved to be incompatible with the band. “It was a big thrill because not only was it a great chance for me to play a solo, but it was my arrangement being played behind me. I was really proud of that,” said Anastasio.


At the end of almost every concert, the Blawenburg Band concludes with John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” just as the composer himself did. It is a homage to American concert bands, a key staple of national culture, and to the success that the Blawenburg Band has and will continue to enjoy.


Blawenburg Band Performance Schedule


Saturday, June 4, 1:30 pm

The festival runs from 11 am to 4 pm.

Music, food, local community group, and lunch prepared by Montgomery Fire Co #2.

Blawenburg Reformed Church


Sunday, June 12

1:30 pm

Boy Scout Strawberry Festival

Montgomery Township

Lower Middle School

373 Burnt Hill Road, Skillman

Monday, July 11

7:15 pm

Hopewell Train Station

2 Railroad Place, Hopewell


Monday, August 1

7:15pm

Hopewell Train Station

2 Railroad Place, Hopewell


Monday, August 22

7:15 pm

Hopewell Train Station

2 Railroad Place, Hopewell


Learn more at blawenburgband.org.



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