HISTORY OF THE MILWAUKEE POLICE BAND
“The Oldest Police Band in America established in 1898”
The photo of the old second district police station at S. 6th and W. Mineral Street where the band held it's rehearsals. When the band grew too large for the south side station, it held its practice sessions in the abandoned morgue on N. Broadway. This picture is from the local history room, Milwaukee Public Library. It is the oldest photo of the band known to date from 1898.
Police Officer William Stupenagel: Police Band Director 1898-1902
Officer William Stupenagel
In the fall of 1897, a number of officers who were rather proficient whistlers came together and started to practice at the old Second District Police Station located at South 6th Street and West Mineral Streets. This led Milwaukee Police Officer William Stupenagel, to organize several officers into a small band. Officer Stupenagel had a musical background and was appointed bandmaster by Chief John T. Janssen. The band grew in both stature and size to the point where it needed more space and moved to the abandoned morgue on Broadway Street. Chief Janssen gave the band the official status as the Milwaukee Police Band.
On April 9, 1898 the Band gave its first performance before members of the department. The selections that were played included “El Capitan”, “Yankee Doodle”, “The Girl I Left Behind Me”, “St. Patrick’s Day”, “The Star Spangled Banner”, and a number of other selections which were reported to have been rendered “in the most creditable manner.”
Milwaukee Journal Article dated August of 1898
The first public appearance of the Police Band was on May 10, 1898, before the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which was held in the City of Milwaukee. The City of Milwaukee had the distinction of having the only police band in the United States in 1898. The original members of the police band were: Police Officer William Stupenagel, Police Officer Rygh, Police Officer W. Green, Police Officer Thoms, Police Officer Fisher, Police Officer Larson, Police Officer Shea, Police Officer Kendzerski, Police Officer Anderson, Police Officer Schlueater, Police Officer Kocher, Police Officer Bennett, Police Officer Krueger, Police Officer Tophofen, Police Officer Doerr, Police Officer Grimm, Police Officer Jones, Police Officer Murphy, Police Officer Hutchinson, Police Officer Longley, Police Officer Solverson, and Police Officer Myers. A Professor Winkler became the instructor for these early members.
The first formal Director of the Police Band was Herman A. Zeitz, son of a German bandmaster. Zeitz grew to become a national figure in music and was Professor of Music at Marquette University. It is believed that he assumed those duties in the year 1902 when he returned to this country from Germany.
Newspaper Article from the Post Crescent on Monday, July 31, 1939 (Above Right)
Milwaukee Police Band on November 7, 1919 (Above)
Charles Zeitz: Police Band Director 1922-1923
In 1922, Herman Zeitz passed the baton to his brother Charles, who conducted until 1923.
He was the director when the Band made its first appearance with the famous John Philip Sousa. On October 7, 1922, the Police Band met Sousa and his band at the train station, where they played for him. Later that evening, the Police Band was invited to perform Sousa’s march “Gallant Seventh” with the Sousa Band at the Auditorium. On October 8, 1922, the Milwaukee Journal reported, "Sousa has taken upon himself the role of sponsor for the Milwaukee Police Band. Sousa wants it to be recognized as the greatest band of any police department in the country. Though members of the police band considered it a remarkable honor to play under the baton of Sousa, together with his own organization, the 'march king' sent on assurances that he held in high esteem the courtesy extended him by this offer of the local police officers." Please see article below in its entirety.
Frederick W. Brunkhorst: Police Band Director 1923-1940
Band Director Frederick Brunkhorst
On November 1, 1923, Frederick W. Brunkhorst assumed the podium of the Milwaukee Police Band.
On November 17, 1923, the Band made its second appearance with John Philip Sousa, who presented a beautiful, large silk American Flag to the Police Band at the Milwaukee Auditorium, following a concert given by John Philip Sousa. Immediately at the conclusion of the last number on the regular program, a curtain was raised behind Sousa’s Band and disclosed the sixty-seven-man band of the Police Department with Fred Brunkhorst, in regimentals of a Police Lieutenant, in command.
Commander Sousa smiled and gave a signal. In response the Sousa Band of eighty men and the Police Band of sixty-seven men played in beautiful accord and tuneful rhythm the inspiring “Sabres and Spurs”, one of Sousa’s fond compositions. The mighty combined band of 147 instrumentalists produced a volume of tone that shivered the myriad incandescents in the dome of the Auditorium.
When the music ceased, Police Sergeant John W. Polcyn (who later was promoted to Chief of Police on August 1, 1945) approached with a magnificent silk flag, with appropriately inscribed streamers. Sgt. Polcyn handed it to Commander Sousa, who summoned Chief J.G. Laubenheimer before him and made the presentation of the Flag. This flag is currently on display at the Safety Academy outside of the band room where the band presently rehearses.
In November of 1924, the police band made its first appearance at the Municipal Christmas Tree Lighting and has been performing at a Tree Lighting in Milwaukee since that time. As of more recent years, in the 21st century, the band has been performing at the Third Ward Christmas Tree Lighting in Catalano Square in Milwaukee at 143 N. Broadway Street.
The Milwaukee Police Band trumpeters performing on December 20, 1925 at an undisclosed location. Photo compliments of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an article published on January 30, 2017 by Reporter Ashley Luthern. (Above)
March 22, 1925, Milwaukee
Left: Fred W. Brunkhorst, Director-Milwaukee Police Band
Right: Capt. Paul Henneberg, Director New York Police Band
The connection with Marquette University continued under Director Brunkhorst with the Marquette Chorus as guests in a concert in November of 1934.
It was during that time that a local composer, Howard B. Weeks, wrote the “Milwaukee Police Band March”. The manuscript rests in the archives of the Police Band located at the Safety Academy. Weeks was born in California, became a circus bandmaster, and moved to Milwaukee in 1926. He composed many sacred compositions for both band and orchestra. Weeks is buried in an unmarked grave in Pine Lawn Cemetery.
(Above) Milwaukee Sentinel Newspaper article on December 2, 1926.
Photo taken in Racine on October 13, 1927 in front of Memorial Hall
2nd of 3 photos taken in Racine on October 13, 1927
Note: The above photo is courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Library Historic Photo Collection.
3rd of 3 photos taken in Racine on October 13, 1927
Note: The above photo is courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Library Historic Photo Collection.
NOTE: During World War I (1914-1918), the Milwaukee Police Band reportedly suspended band activities due to hardship until the war was over and then reconvened in 1919. It has been in continuous operation ever since.
Dr. Robert O. Brunkhorst: Police Band Director 1940-1962
On February 2, 1940, Dr. Robert O. Brunkhorst was appointed as the director of the Milwaukee Police Band. He was a doctor by profession, but was highly respected as a musician. He conducted not only the Police Band but also the Tripoli Shrine Band. Under Dr. Brunkhorst's direction, the band became a regular feature on WISN radio. Several 78-rpm audio discs from those broadcasts are on display at the Safety Academy.
The below listed audio tracks are from some of those recordings.
The Band also made its second appearance in front of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
On May 24, 2019 a new “old” photo of the MPB from 1947 marching in a Milwaukee parade. Slight water damage, but a rare treasure.
On November 1, 1955, then Milwaukee Police Chief John Polcyn signed the below listed document outlining the history of the police band.
Below is a transcribed taped interview broadcast on radio station WFOX just prior to the annual concert of the Milwaukee Police Band on October 26, 1960 at the Milwaukee Auditorium. The interview is with Henry Kresnicka of the Milwaukee Police Department then Communications Bureau. At that time Kresnicka was the Secretary and Manager as well as Quartermaster of the Police Band and also served as its soloist. Mr. Kresnicka had in 1960 already been associated with the band for over 22 years.
From 1956 – 1974, in addition to the concert band, 6 band members also performed in the “Police Combo”. The combo performed at various civic locations, including hospitals and schools, as well as special occasions, including concerts at the Milwaukee Auditorium, the children’s Christmas party, Chiefs of Police conventions and on PBS – Channel 10.
Milwaukee Sentinel Article April 24, 1962 regarding Director Robert Brunkhorst
John Paulish: Police Band Director 1962-1964
In 1962, John M. Paulish became Director of the Band. John was a City of Milwaukee Maintenance supervisor and had much musical talent, having played in the Tripoli Shrine Band and the American Legion Band. He studied music at Milwaukee Vocational School. Director Paulish started the band grade school concert program, which has become a very important part of our present schedule.
In 1964, Mr. Paulish was succeeded by Perry F. Chalifoux, a professional trumpet player who had led his own orchestra in the city since the mid 1920’s. Under Mr. Chalifoux, the band made annual trips to the Veterans Home in King, Wisconsin and also played Christmas concerts at the boy's home in Plymouth, Wisconsin.
Perry Chalifoux: Police Band Director 1964-1980
In 1964, Perry F. Chalifoux became the Director. He was a trumpet player by profession and had led his own orchestra in the City since the mid-twenties. During the tenure of John F. Kennedy as President, the band was asked to greet him at the Mitchell Field Airport. The Band was at the hanger waiting for Air Force One to land when the President was called back to Washington and the Band never did play for him. During that period, the Band made annual day trips to the Veterans Home at King, Wisconsin and also played Christmas concerts at the boy’s home at Plymouth, Wisconsin.
Perry Chalifoux directing the band at the Police Administration Building, 749 W. State Street.
On January 16, 1973 the Milwaukee Journal printed this article on the first female band member in the Milwaukee Police Band. On November 16, 2017 after performing at the recruit gradation at the police academy, Director Karen Dubis was both honored and thrilled to meet Peggy Frase who was also attending the ceremony. (Below)
Police Officer Dennis Benjamin: Police Band Director 1980-1999
In 1980, Police Officer Dennis Benjamin was appointed director by Chief Harold Breier. While Officer Benjamin was director, the elementary school program was enhanced to include a "McGruff" character and an Elvis impersonator carrying an anti-crime, anti-drug, and positive self-esteem message to area school children. In 1986, the format of the band’s annual fall concert and dance was changed to a ‘concert only’. For years, the concert and dance had been held at the Milwaukee Auditorium. With the change in format came a change in venue; the concerts were now held at the Historic Pabst Theatre. The Milwaukee Police Band Jazz Ensemble was also formed to offer a more versatile program by performing big band swing music of the 1930's and 1940's.
In July of 1988 the Milwaukee Police Band played a joint concert with the Minneapolis Police Band at the Milwaukee County Zoo.
Director Police Officer Dennis Benjamin (left) with the Director of the Minneapolis Police Band Retired Police Officer Robert Falk and the Director of the St. Paul Police Band Robert Dynan. (Above)
In July of 1989 the Milwaukee Police Band performed in Minneapolis, MN at the Lake Harriet Bandshell as part of Bandemonium during their Aquatennial Festival. Soloists included Karen Dubis on Clarinet, Jim Hutchinson on Trumpet, Paul Leshok on Trombone and Karl Treu on Tuba. (Below)
Also in July 1989, the band combined with the Minneapolis Police Band and the Winnipeg, Ontario Police Band and marched in the famous Aquatennial Parade.
In 1990, a high school awards program was developed with the help of Dr. Nicholas J. Contorno and Marquette University. Students from area high schools were selected to perform with the Milwaukee Police Band in a concert at Marquette's Varsity Theater. On November 15, 1991, Chief of Police Philip Arreola presented the band with a Chief of Police Superior Achievement Award.
On May 16, 1992, the Milwaukee Police Band appeared in Cleveland, Ohio at the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Dedication Ceremony. Police pipe bands, choruses, military bands, and dancers from throughout the United States and Canada took part in this event.
In October 1993, the Band was invited to appear at the Wisconsin Music Educators Association Music Conference in Madison, Wisconsin where they demonstrated their approach to youth programs.
In July 1998 the Milwaukee Police Band celebrated its’ 100th anniversary as the “Oldest Police Band in America”. They were invited to Washington D.C. for our nation’s Independence Day Parade, and proudly marched down Constitution Avenue.
Police Officer Bobby Lindsey and Detective Karen Dubis:
Police Band Co-Directors 1999-2002
Left to Right: Band Manager Detective Mary Hoerig, Co-Directors Detective Karen Dubis and
Officer Bobby Lindsey in 1999
Left to Right: Co-Director Detective Karen Dubis, Band Manager Sergeant Daniel Alexander and
Co-Director Officer Bobby Lindsey
In May 1999, Detective Karen Dubis and Police Officer Bobby Lindsey were appointed co-directors of the Milwaukee Police Band by Chief Arthur Jones. This was the first time in the band's history that a two director format was utilized. Lieutenant Dubis was the band's first female director and Officer Lindsey was the band's first African American director.
March 2000, saw the expansion of the Milwaukee Police Band Youth in Arts Program to include a concert at Marquette Varsity Theater with new activities. Younger children were included in the program and paired with police officer-musicians who mentored and performed with the students at the All City Biennial Music Festival. The band members presented special awards to the student participants.
Since 2000, the Milwaukee Police Band has achieved several great milestones including marching in Milwaukee's own Great Circus Parade (2001, 2002, 2003 and 2009) see below, the South Shore Water Frolics (July 14, 2001 – received “Best Band in Parade” honors), Marshall Field's Jingle Elf Parade in Chicago (November 21, 2001, November 28, 2002, and 2003).
Drum Major Police Officer Kathleen Gorlewski leading the band for the Great Circus Parade
On Saturday, May 4, 2002, the Milwaukee Police Band Jazz Ensemble performed for the WOKY Hometown Hero Dance at Mount Mary College, 2300 N. Menomonee River Parkway for a fundraiser.
Lieutenant Karen Dubis: Police Band Director 2003-Present
Since December of 2002, Lieutenant Karen Dubis has been the sole director of the Milwaukee Police Band. Under Lieutenant Dubis’s baton, the band continues in their efforts as “goodwill ambassadors” for the Milwaukee Police Department. They cherish the opportunity they have been given to do their part in contributing to the quality of life in our community.
Also, in April of 2003, the band traveled to Florida to perform on Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland stage in the Magic Kingdom and marched in the “Share a Dream Come True” parade.
On June 24, 2007, the Milwaukee Police Band traveled to Eagle, Wisconsin to participate in the Kettle Moraine Days Parade.
On July 29, 2008, the Band performed at the Midwest Airlines Center for the FBI National Academy Conference.
On February 22, 2009, the band performed at the Artists In Music Benefit in support of a crime victim as part of a local fundraiser.
(Below) The Milwaukee Police Band performing at the Greater Milwaukee Law Enforcement Memorial in May 2009 and also with Chief Edward A. Flynn after the ceremony.
From 2009 through 2014, the band along with several other local musicians, recorded Christmas songs that were put on CD's. The CD's, entitled "Sing For Your Supper", were sold as a fundraiser to support the meal program at the Agape Community Center.
Also in 2009 the police band members received a generous donation from the wife of deceased Milwaukee Police Officer Harold Reinalt in his memory. This donation was used to purchase new uniforms for the band. A uniform committee was formed and chose a uniform that reflected styles of the band uniforms of days gone past. The hat that the band members wear is designed after a hat on display by the Historical Society that was sent with great care to the tailor so that they could duplicate the exact style from the early 1900's. To supplement additional uniform purchases the band members volunteer their time to staff an "Adopt A Site" for elections in Milwaukee as a fundraiser.
On Friday, May 6, 2011 Maestro Marvin Hamlisch directed the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Pops Concert featuring songs written by himself. During this concert the song entitled, “One Song, One Voice” was performed. Director Karen Dubis attended this concert and then spent the next few weeks attempting to obtain the music for the Milwaukee Police Band to perform this piece at the annual fall concert. Being unsuccessful at finding the printed music anywhere, she finally contacted the Marvin Hamlisch website and emailed a request to help her find the music.
On Thursday, May 19, 2011, Director Dubis was contacted by phone by a man associated with the website and she told him this story. He told her to email her story to another email address that he gave her and so she did.
The next day Director Dubis received a phone call and the voice on the other end of the phone stated, “This is Marvin Hamlisch.” Maestro Hamlisch told her that he received her request and that he was going to have his Music Librarian send the music free of charge to One Song, One Voice. Director Dubis received the music the next day…..Fed Ex overnight.
On September 23, 2011, the band performed in concert with the Aalborg, Denmark Police Orchestra in Racine, Wisconsin. This was a historic event and an incredible experience for the members of both musical groups.
On March 17, 2012, the band traveled to Savannah, Georgia and performed in concert at the Esther F. Garrison School of the Visual and Performing Arts, the Market Square and marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
In May, 2013 the Milwaukee Police Band Jazz Ensemble performed at Discovery World for the Police Executives Research Form (PERF) Conference.
In January of 2015, the band obtained a 501(C)3 status as a non profit organization. The Band is funded solely by the Milwaukee Police Band Association. Donations help to pay for the annual concert at the Pabst Theater and other items needed for the operations of the band. No city monies are utilized to fund the Band's operations.
On January 19, 2015 the Milwaukee Police Band performed for a "Salute to Police" at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center at 1531 W. Vliet Street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
On March 14, 2015, the band traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana and performed in concert at the St. Michael's Special School, at the Artillery Park Band Shell and in the Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day Parade.
New Orleans Irish Channel Parade 2015
On August 15, 2015, Lieutenant Karen Dubis officially retired from the Milwaukee Police Department, however, she has been approved by Chief Edward Flynn to continue on as the Director of the Milwaukee Police Band in her retirement.
The members of the Milwaukee Police Band under Retired Lieutenant Karen Dubis, a 40 year veteran of the band and 37 year veteran of the department, continue in their role as “goodwill ambassadors” to the citizens of Milwaukee. They cherish the opportunity to do their part in improving the quality of life in this fine City of Milwaukee.
The Band performs regularly at the Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial, recruit graduation ceremonies, the Law Enforcement Mass of Blessing at the Basilica of St. Josephat, the Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies and other Civic functions.
The Band is funded solely by the Milwaukee Police Band Association and has earned the status as a 501(C)3 non profit organization.
Donations help to pay for the annual concert at the Pabst Theater that is a free concert open to the public and other items needed for the operations of the band. No city monies are utilized to fund the Band's operations. The civilian and police members who perform with the band volunteer their time and talent.