It all began back in 1937 by an Essex merchant who operated a small soft drink company. Charles Maedel had a strong desire to direct young boys down a productive road, as well as teaching them values and music. He started the first marching band in the County under the direction of Mr. E.L. Robinson. From the Essex Boys Band to the South Essex Boys Band to the Kingsville-Essex Associated Band, it has been a local institution that has served as a fertile ground for all sorts of long-lasting friendships and many great memories.
Under E. L. Robinson the band was strictly a military-style marching band. His motto was “if you blow a horn, you will never blow a safe.” This band travelled to Expo “Man and his World” in Montreal, to Grand Haven Michigan Coast Guard Festival and also to many local tattoos and parades. Majorettes twirling fire batons were one of the band’s highlights.
In 1972, E. L. Robinson turned his musical dynasty over to one of the members, Jim Barnett. Jim Barnett took the band in a different direction – competitions. In 1974, the Kingsville-Essex Associated Band was one of the first Canadian bands to compete in the Michigan short circuit tour. – a panorama of drills, marching maneuvers, and music. Many weekends were spent at band camps at GessTwood Camp and the Kingsville Arena practicing awesome routines for horn players, flag, and rifle twirlers.
Highlights of this time were competing in the Toronto Music Competition, the first Canadian Band Festival and competition in Essex and also all of the competitions in Michigan in such places as Chesaning, Clawson, Howell, and Band Axe – The Marching Hatchets.
In the early 80’s the band was entering yet another transition period. As band members moved on, the band struggled to stay alive. When it seemed as though this musical dynasty might fold, Mr. Bill Brown engineered a meeting in late 1986 and the band returned to life as a family band. All ages could be involved. This provided a golden opportunity for previous members to introduce their children to quality music, fun and establish a sense of pride belonging to a marching band.
The band master’s baton was now handed over to Tony Malkowski, an Essex District High School music teacher. This was a golden opportunity for the band to take hold of his expertise in music and drills. The Kingsville-Essex Associated Band performed in Ottawa on Parliament Hill in 90-degree temperatures when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were there in 1997. This was one of the memorable parts of the Band’s 60th Anniversary Celebration. Travelling to the Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan also added another valuable experience for band members to hear the cheering crowds that lined the City streets. Who can forget all 96 band members being squished into a 44-seat bus when one bus broke down??
2001 brought a new era to KEAB, as well as a new band director. Grant Bergeron took on the task of leading this group through many more adventures. A return trip to Traverse City, Michigan for the Cherry Festival and the opportunity to participate in a field show in Kitchener, Ontario were just two of the highlights. New uniforms were purchased and proudly displayed in many performances around the province. Grant’s dedication, enthusiasm, and expertise helped the band to thrive over the next 4 years.
In 2005, it was time for yet another change. Grant passed the baton on to a long time member of the group, Brad Switzer. Brad played trumpet under the three previous directors. His experience was a valuable asset in his new role. He provided the necessary leadership to keep the show on the road. His vision combined aspects of his competition days, as well as the more traditional marching with which the members were familiar.
Shortly thereafter, Rosemary Borland was hired as the new band director. As the elementary music teacher at Kingsville Public School, she brought a fresh perspective to the group. The basics of music were a primary focus, which encouraged solid performances.
When Rosemary relinquished the post, Brad Switzer returned to the podium. During his time in front, the band celebrated its 70th and 75th Anniversaries. In 2007, the band accomplished E. L. Robinson’s dream and travelled to Calgary, Alberta to participate in the Calgary Stampede parade. The question of what comes next was answered in 2012 when the KEAB marched down the Main Street of the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World in Florida. For many of the members, this was a trip of a lifetime.
As the band looked forward to the 80th Anniversary in 2017, new paths were examined and another directorial change was made. Chris Ingratta accepted the post as the sixth band director in the Kingsville Essex Associated Band’s long, and storied, history. His experience with the Windsor Military Band (now known as the Windsor Regiment Band) allowed him to introduce a new perspective and some new marching techniques. The band has played in several concerts, a field show in honour of the Tall Ships visiting Essex County, and the standard parade schedule.
Our members now come from both Kingsville and Essex and all of Essex County – older members, younger members, all performing together. Because we have worked together, we are richer for the experience. The sense of community and friendship is a thing which is very evident. The Band is “The Musical Ambassadors of Essex County”. The Kingsville-Essex Associated Band has also been honoured by having a mural painted on the side of the building at 29 Talbot N. in Essex which depicts the many phases of this community band over the years.
“THE TRADITION MARCHES ON”