Vineyard Haven is the main port of entry on Martha’s Vineyard, hosting the Steamship Authority ferry, which shuttles passengers to and from the main land year round. This tiny town of around 2,000 residents is known for its shops, restaurants, and the Vineyard Haven band.
The Vineyard Haven band could very well be the oldest band of its kind anywhere in the United States. According to the group’s secretary Martha Childs, the Vineyard Haven band is more than 145 years old, being first formed in 1868 by Civil War veterans who wanted to come together for a common cause. In the beginning, these veterans dubbed themselves “The Silver Cornets.”
This band is comprised of locals, many of which have played with the group for decades. Ms. Childs herself claims that she has played with the band for 45 years, and that her father before her played for more than 60 years.
In all, there are over 35 active year-round members, with as many as 50 participating in band activities during the summer months. These members come from all occupations and walks of life. Among the members are several school band directors, music teachers, farmers, hotel owners, graduate students and a NASA scientist.
There are no age limits on band membership. Students in junior high school play alongside senior citizens in a show of camaraderie and tradition that’s bound to continue for another 145 years. The genre of music varies from jazz to show tunes, and the choices played on any given night can depend on which musicians are available to play certain instruments.
During the summer, the Vineyard Haven band puts on free concerts every other Sunday evening at Owen Park in Vineyard Haven or Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs. These concerts have been a longstanding tradition throughout the band’s 145-year history. Members play inside a covered pavilion, and guests gather around this structure in lawn chairs or on blankets to relax and enjoy the music.
The band also plays for other special events in the area from time to time, including a Fourth of July concert at a historic whaling church in Edgartown. They rehearse heavily during the summer months, with practices taking place at a local sailing camp in Oak Bluffs most Monday evenings beginning in June and running through mid August.
The towns of Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs sponsor the band. Although it is considered to be Vineyard Haven’s town band, Oak Bluffs actually contributes more money towards its operating expenses. That’s because players perform more often in Oak Bluffs than they do in Vineyard Haven.
While you’re in Vineyard Haven, be sure to take in one of the band’s performances. To get there, contact us for a rental car reservation.