Despite having played over 60 seasons, the Municipal Band has had only FOUR conductors! It’s this level of dedication that has helped make the band what it is today.
Roland L. Moehlmann, 1951-1967
The band’s founding director came to Cedar Rapids in 1929 as the second full time instrumental music teacher hired by the Cedar Rapids Community School District. In the early 1930s he began writing a series of band transcriptions on Bach’s Preludes and Fugues. The success and fame from these transcriptions earned him the name Bach-Moehlmann in the national band community. In the 1950’s he composed a number of pieces for high school sight reading band contests.
The Municipal Band would often proofread his green ink, copper plate proof sheets by playing through and looking for errors in the music. In the 1960’s he transcribed and published band arrangements of music by composers such as Mozart and Dvorak. He also wrote many band accompaniments for soloists who performed with the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band. Today, around 125 of his unpublished manuscripts exist. Many of these have been rented out and performed all over the United States.
While teaching a Cedar Rapids school, Mr. Moehlmann was knocked down some stairs by an out of control student. The resulting back injury eventually led to arthritis of the spine. During the late 1960s he had become almost completely inmobilized. He underwent twelve major back operations, and survived a heart attack. Despite his constant pain he continued to direct the band, teach school , and arrange music. His deteriorating health required his resigning as Municipal Band director in 1968.
The in between years, 1968 – 1970
With the resignation of Mr. Moehlmann the Band Commission turned the job of band directing over to local and guest band directors. Among those who led the band were: Cedric Anderson, Luman Colton, Rollie Raim, Bob Sadilek, and Frank Kluesner. Without a permanent leader the continuity and performance level of the band began to decline. This problem was solved with the arrival of Frank Piersol as the bands new permanent director.
Frank Piersol, 1971 – 1993
Frank Piersol took over the baton in 1971 as permanent director and was largely responsible for creating the professional organization that appears before the public today. Demanding a high level of musicianship, he created a level of performance in the band far above the amateur – student level of performance the band started out with in 1951. As many of the older original members retired, they were replaced by younger, better trained musicians. The band gradually evolved into a smooth musical unit of credibility and importance. By the 1980s the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band had gained a reputation in the Midwest as one of the finest community bands around.
Frank Piersol came to Cedar Rapids as an internationally known band leader, and was the perfect choice to continue what Mr. Moehlmann had started. His music degrees were earned at Grinnell College and the University of Iowa. He was a high school band director at West Waterloo and Osage Iowa. His career continued as director of the Iowa State University Band for 19 years, and director of the University of Iowa Band for 13 years. He retired from the University of Iowa in 1980, making the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band his retirement band. He conducted here until his resignation in 1993.
Piersol’s career included being a guest conductor, lecturer, music contest judge, music camp director, and other musical activities in 40 states, Europe, Canada, and Mexico. Frank’s friendly out-going personality created a director audience relationship which brought hundreds of new listeners to the band concerts.
During the 1980s he composed a series of marches, one which was dedicated to the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band. Frank Piersol was always grateful to have have the Municipal Band to conduct during his early retirement years. The Band Commission was even more grateful for what Piersol accomplished with their Municipal Band.
In 2001, Piersol composed a piece called “Celebration March” to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band. He conducted his work at the first two concerts of the 2001 season.
Morgan Jones, 1994 – 2010
The Band Commission had a difficult job in replacing Frank Piersol. They needed to find a proven professional band director with high standards, and an understanding of the expectations and limitations of a community band. They found their replacement in Dr. Morgan J. Jones. Morgan Jones retired in 1991 after many years as director of the Hawkeye Marching Band. Jones knew that Frank Piersol had enjoyed his years as director of the Municipal Band. When Piersol retired, Jones auditioned for the job, and was chosen as the third permanent director of the band. Late in the 2009 season, Dr. Jones announced his plans to step down after 17 years. He directed his final concert during the first week of the 2010 season. Jones will always be remembered for his wit between numbers and his nack for programing crowd favorties at each of the bands’ concerts.
Steve Shanley, 2011 – present
The fourth conductor in the 64-year history of the band, Steve Shanley is an assistant professor of music at Coe College (Cedar Rapids, IA), where he coordinates the music education and jazz studies programs, teaches music education courses, and directs the jazz band. Prior to his full-time appointment to Coe in 2011, Shanley spent 11 years teaching middle and high school music in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. In addition to teaching, he frequently plays keyboard for touring Broadway shows, local theatrical productions, jazz ensembles, symphony orchestras, rock bands, and other ensembles.
Shanley has an active schedule as a guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator, and accompanist, and he is also in demand as a composer and arranger. Over 1,000 of his works have been performed by marching bands, jazz bands, concert bands, orchestras, brass bands, and choirs throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe. Shanley is currently Vice President of the Jazz Educators of Iowa (JEI), President-Elect of NEIBA, and Co-Chair of the Iowa Jazz Championships. In addition, he served as an exam reader for College Board Advanced Placement Music Theory and was the founding president of JEI.