The first Red Lodge community bands began forming in 1896 and were comprised primarily of Finnish, Slavic, Italian, British Isles and German immigrants. By 1910, as Red Lodge developed into a major coal mining community, it had a formal military band.
Over the years, area bands went by many names – such as City Band, Eagles Band, Festival Band and Roberts Band. Generically, they were all referred to as “Finn Bands,” since many members were of Finnish heritage. They played a lot more than Finnish music, however, since for many years they possessed but twenty pieces of actual, authentic Finn music. Their primary focus was on American march music, the classics we all know and still enjoy today.
Over the years, interest in music and musical performance changed but never abated. The photo below is of the 1939 Red Lodge concert band. One clarinet player, Harold Stauffer eventually became the Cody, Wyoming high school principal when current players Don Hardy, Ken Boggio and Terry Bartlett were in school. Also in this band are numerous uncles and second cousins of the Boggio brothers.
The 1939 band’s instrumentation is very similar to today’s band. Especially, notice the helicons and tuba.
Public school bands were also active in the area through the years. At one point, players were combined to form a Red Lodge-Roberts School Band.
The adult Roberts and Red Lodge bands merged in 1950, and in the late 1960s, Doctor Jorge and Gloria Jorgenson began forming youth German bands in the region, generously providing instruments. It wasn’t long before they had bands established in Worland, Wyoming and in Red Lodge.
The youth bands performed on “German Night” at the Red Lodge Music Festival during the 1970s and 80s, with Doc and Gloria providing German and Austrian (“Germanic”) music and alpine style costumes. In 1991, Bud Ridenour, a Worland music teacher and future Red Lodge Mayor, organized an adult version of Doc and Gloria’s Alpine style Germanic band. It was called Der Lustigen Alpenjaeger Kapelle (The Jovial Alpine Hunter’s band).
At one point, a lady’s band formed in Red Lodge. They played both brass and woodwind instruments, and dressed quite formally for performances (and photographs).
Between the late 1960s and mid 1990s, the several area bands dwindled to a handful of musicians who generally gathered only once a year for the Red Lodge Festival of Nations (begun in 1951). Thus, they became known as the “Festival Band.”
Later, local and regional musicians began playing under two names. Alte Kameraden focused on Germanic music, while Olde Comrades performed non-Germanic music. Actually, the two names mean the same thing, but were chosen individually in commemoration of all who participated in Red Lodge bands and musical programs over the years.
This photo of the first Kameraden band is provided by the families of our present-day co-directors, Ken and Kerry Boggio. Most of the players are relatives. The two trumpeters are Edwin and Matt Kansala. The tuba player is Teddy Kansala. On trombone is Tenho Koski. The drummer is Joe Bertolino.
In 1995, the bands merged under the name Alte Kameraden, (all-tee com-ah-RAHD-en), the name used today. Also commonly and affectionally called the Red Lodge “oompah band” by many locals, we perform a variety of music in many venues. We are integral to many high profile local and regional events, such as Oktoberfest. Alte Kameraden is proud to represent the long tradition of southern Montana community bands.
Special note: the late Mrs. Elvin Boggio (Ken and Kerry’s mother), was an early member of Alte Kameraden. She is seen in this undated photo (left) with her baritone.
Her inspiration that led her sons and many other people into a lifetime of music appreciation. At Kameraden performances in years past we were honored to have our matriarch, Mrs. Boggio, in attendance. May she rest in peace.
Note: some photos are from Liona Lampi’s book, At the Foot of the Beartooth Mountains.