Every Tuesday night for two centuries, musicians have gathered to practice playing their instruments in what is now Old Salem. They are members of Salem Band — a full community concert band and the oldest continuous mixed wind ensemble in the US.
Moravian settlers in Salem, who were devout musicians, formed a mixed trombone ensemble in 1771 and the band evolved over time. There are now currently about 70 people playing in Salem Band — and Music Director Eileen Young says there’s a wait list for musicians who want the opportunity to join.
“We have some professional players. We have a lot of public school band directors or retired band directors — and then we have folks at a more amateur, intermediate level,” Young said.
Musicians don’t just honor the band’s Moravian heritage by still playing on Tuesday nights. They also play hymns as they were written centuries ago and delight audiences during the summer in the same place the group’s founding members played — Salem Square. Young says it’s an experience unique to Winston-Salem.
“There’s just nothing more all-American than that. Because in the early 20th century in this country, town bands performed everywhere and that was a main source of entertainment for people — and that’s kind of gone by the wayside except for here.”
Salem Band is preparing for its upcoming fall concert on Sunday, October 1. It will be free and open to the public, like all of the band’s performances. Young says attending a concert — and sharing your experience with others — is the best way and support the band’s future.
“We do what we can to involve and engage with the community here and I think that’s been an important part of our growth.”