The Carthage College Wind Orchestra — one of the oldest college bands in the United States — was established as a brass band in 1873 under the leadership of Prof. J.M. Helfrich. From its humble beginnings as a six-piece brass ensemble, the group has been subsequently been known as the “Concert Band,” “Symphonic Band,” “Symphonic Wind Ensemble,” and “Wind Symphony” during its tenure of 140 years.
Distinguished conductors to lead the band were J.Q.A. Kimmell, Elmer Hanke, Merrill Brown, Woodrow Hodges, and Kenneth Winkle. The band has a long and honored history of service to Carthage College and the artistic life of the communities of Kenosha, Wis., and Carthage, Ill. The band has also maintained a rich tradition in touring the Midwest.
The Carthage band claims as one of its most outstanding alumni the composer David Uber, who maintains a repository of his music in Hedberg Library. A series of important events celebrated the 130th anniversary of the band in 2003. These included the band’s first tour to Japan, as well as a Midwestern tour, the premiere of a commissioned work (Palimpsest by Keith Carpenter), and the band’s first CD.
Another CD, Winds a la Carte, was released in 2007, followed by Think on These Things in 2010 and Sacred Space and Sound in 2011. Several commissions have been undertaken in the past ten years, as well as the construction of two accompaniments for the silent films Metropolis and The General.
The 140th Anniversary was celebrated throughout 2013-14 with many featured events, beginning with an outdoor performance of music drawn from the 1873-1874 programs, the Wind Orchestra’s fourth trip to Japan, and concluding with the May Anniversary Concert that featured the premiere of Liquid Compass by Alex Shapiro.