The Sweet Sound of… Saxophones!

Today is national saxophone day! Why November 6th? Because that is the birthday of Adolphe Sax, the Belgian inventor of the saxophone. And today happens to be his 200th birthday. Incidentally, today is also the 160th birthday of John Phillip Sousa, legendary march composer and promoter of saxophone use in bands.

In honor of both of these men, we bring you the O.P. Thayer Saxophone Band of Rock Springs!

The OP Thayer Saxophone Band shows off their new maroon uniforms in front of the Rock Springs City Hall, ca 1902. (WSA Sweetwater Museum Collection Sub Neg 5550)

The O.P. Thayer Saxophone Band shows off their new maroon uniforms in front of the Rock Springs City Hall, ca 1902. The large instrument in the front row, far right is the first bass saxophone manufactured by the Conn musical instrument company.
(WSA Sweetwater County Museum Collection Sub Neg 5550)

(WSA Rock Springs Rocket  10/9/1902 p4)

One of the first concerts given by the Saxophone Band(WSA Rock Springs Rocket 10/9/1902 p4)

Born in Massachusetts around 1875, Oliver “Ollie” Pearson Thayer, moved with his family to Rock Springs around 1877. In high school, he played in the band and orchestra, often with his sister Mary. For a while in his late teens-early twenties, Thayer dabbled in professional photography but found his calling in music.

Around 1902, he organized his saxophone band, possibly the first of its kind in the nation. The group often serenaded the residents of Rock Springs at concerts, dances, community events, commencements, weddings, for visiting dignitaries and even at a few funerals. The band received rave reviews from local and national press. Thayer’s band also received the first bass saxophone produced by the Conn company, a leading instrument manufacturer. By the 1910s, saxophone bands had sprung up all around the country.

Thayer Fremont Clipper July 10, 1903, page 4

(WSA Fremont Clipper 7/10/1903 p4)

1903 seems to have been the height of the band’s popularity, though they continued to perform until about 1905. During the summer of 1903, the band traveled to Fort Washakie, Lander and Atlantic City and entertained President Theodore Roosevelt during his visit to Evanston that year as part of a three day trip through Wyoming on his way back from the West Coast.

Thayer Wyoming Press May 30, 1903, page 9

(WSA Wyoming Press 5/30/1903 p9)

In addition to leading various bands and orchestras in the Rock Springs area, Thayer also composed several pieces of music.

O.P. Thayer composed several pieces of music including this 1909 march and two step, punctuated by "Indian yells." Unfortunately, he used a photo of Shoshone chief Washakie to illustrate his "Sioux" war dance. (WSA H2012-10)

O.P. Thayer composed several pieces of music including this 1906 piece punctuated by “Indian yells.” Unfortunately, he used a photo of Shoshone chief Washakie to illustrate his “Sioux” war dance. Most of his compositions seem to have been marches and/or two steps.
(WSA H2012-10)

Thayer and his family moved to Havre, Montana in 1914 but kept in contact with their family and many of their friends in Rock Springs. By 1932, he and his family had moved to Redlands, California where he directed the school band and orchestra. Thayer died in California in 1957.

 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Sweet Sound of… Saxophones!

  1. Very cool stuff! Thank you for posting!

    I am the director of bands at Rock Springs High School, and I love seeing the history of music in our town!

    One small note – I believe your article should read that Thayer died in 1957, not 1857.

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