Also see The Story of Arion
The German Arion Gesangverein (singing society) was founded in 1875. Nearly all of the German men in Frostburg who were musically inclined were members. In autumn of 1977, the German Arion Band was organized from among members of the choral group, originally to provide accompaniment for that group. The founding members of the band included George H. Wittig, George Horchler, William Horchler, John Lammert, Peter Lammert, Philip Pfeiffer, George Voghtman, Adam Maury, William Wenk Sr., Peter Pressman, John Gehauf, Charles Wildman, Henry J. Rehs, Conrad Lute, Henry Mayer, Conrad Ort, John Voghtman, Moses Jandorf, and Director Conrad F. Nichol.
The first rehearsals were held in a furniture area (of which Mr. Nichol was part owner) at the rear of the Gross and Nichol building. In 1880, fire destroyed the store. The blaze claimed instruments, uniforms, music, and even the director as Mr. Nichol set about rebuilding his business. Band members and other town residents purchased new instruments and rehearsals resumed in the Odd Fellows’ Opera House.
Each community in Allegany County had their own band. An annual picnic of the Amalgamated Band Association brought together a combined band of nearly 200 men, including the members of the Arion Band.
Professional musicians were secured to provide instruction for the band. These included Professor W.O. Shaffer, a Professor McCauley, and several journeymen musicians. Band minutes indicate that the director was known as the “teacher.” To become a member of the band, a musician had to be elected. Written applications, initiation fees, and dues were required. Seating within the band was competitive, and musical quality was taken very seriously. If a member talked during rehearsal, their instrument could be confiscated so the offender could not practice.
Through the years, the Arion Band has been engaged in many interesting activities. In 1889, the band became the Fourth Battalion Band at Camp Jackson, a component of the Maryland State Militia. The present band hall on Uhl Street was constructed in 1900. Around the turn of the century, the band was well traveled, including an annual train trip to Luray, Virginia for a performance in the caverns. Due to anti-German sentiments during World War I, the name of the band was changed from the German Arion Band to its present designation. To demonstrate loyalty to America, the Kaiser Frazier March was rechristened Americana by the band.
After the “Great War,” many community bands faded into history, but the Anon Band continued and flourished, despite a funding crisis in 1939. Many difficult transcriptions of orchestral works are in the repertoire, and numerous parade prizes and trophies have been won.
The Arion Band remains one of the oldest continuously operating community bands in the United States, based in Frostburg, Maryland. Established in 1877 by Germans immigrating to the area for the plentiful coal mining jobs, the band has been playing for 136 years. The band takes its name from Arion, a legendary Corinthian lyre player. Membership in the band is no longer limited to German-Americans, nor is it by audition only, but the band continues to provide free musical performances in and around Frostburg, Maryland, every summer.
The Arion Band meets and rehearses in its historic Band Hall, built in 1900, on Uhl Street in Frostburg. The exterior of the band hall was recently repaired as part of an Eagle Scout project by Local Eagle Scout Braden Ishler.