David Wallis Reeves

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David Wallis Reeves
A heavyset, middle-aged man in formal wear with a thick mustache and goatee
Background information
Born(1838-02-14)February 14, 1838
Oswego, New York
DiedMarch 8, 1900(1900-03-08) (aged 62)
Providence, Rhode Island
Occupation(s)Composer, cornetist, and bandleader
Years activecirca 1850–1900
Associated actsThe American Band

David Wallis Reeves (February 14, 1838 – March 8, 1900), also known as D. W. Reeves or Wally Reeves,[1] was an American composer, cornetist, and bandleader. He developed the American march style, later made famous by the likes of John Philip Sousa,[2] and his innovations include adding a countermelody to the American march form in 1876.[3] Sousa called Reeves "The Father of Band Music in America", and stated he wished he himself had written Reeves' "Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March".[4][5] Charles Ives also borrowed from the "Second Connecticut" on four occasions.[6]

Reeves was born on February 14, 1838, in Oswego, New York. In the early 1850s, he joined the Oswego band as an alto horn player, but soon moved to cornet, the instrument for which he would become famous. He occasionally performed with Jules Levy, another famous cornetist of the period. In 1871, he married Sarah Blanding. Blanding had a daughter from a previous marriage, and they were later to have a son, David W. Reeves, Jr.[5]

Reeves was a cornetist with the Dodworth Band of New York before being recruited by the American Brass Band of Providence, Rhode Island in 1866. He joined the ensemble on February 17, and was elected its leader on April 9. His initial compensation was $600 per year, plus the proceeds of one concert, in return for which he agreed to conduct the band on all occasions.[5] He eventually added woodwinds to the formerly all-brass band, which became known as Reeves' American Band.[2] It was known as one of the best marching bands in the country during his tenure.[7] In the 1870s, he created the first local orchestra in Providence, the Providence Symphony Orchestra.[8] In 1892, he accepted the directorship of Patrick Gilmore's Twenty-Second New York Regiment band after Gilmore's death, but returned to the American Band after a year.[9] Later in the 1890s, he served as a judge for the New York Volunteer Firemen's Association's band competitions.[10]

Reeves conducting the Gilmore Band circa 1892

In 1878, Reeves led a performance of H.M.S. Pinafore, using a boat for the stage, which Arthur Sullivan took note of.[4]

Early in 1900, he contracted Bright's disease.[5] He died on March 8, 1900.[4] His funeral service took place at the First Baptist Church in America, where he had frequently led the American Band as part of Brown University's Commencement ceremonies,[11] and included a performance of his Immortalis by the American Band. Sousa sent 200 roses in his memory.[5] He was buried at Swan Point Cemetery with Masonic honors.[5]

By the time of his death in 1900, he had composed over 100 works.[5] In 1926, a marble fountain was built as a memorial to Reeves in Roger Williams Park in Providence.[12]


  1. ^ Haley, John Williams (1929). The "Old Stone Bank" history of Rhode Island. 3. Providence Institute for Savings. p. 240. ...Wally Reeves and his famous American Band... (referring to President Hayes' visit to Rhode Island in 1877)
  2. ^ a b History of the American Band
  3. ^ "U.S. Army Bands in History: Civilian Bands Replace Military Bands". U.S. Army. Archived from the original on July 21, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Federal Writers' Project, Rhode Island (1937). Rhode Island: a guide to the smallest state. North American Book Dist LLC. p. 167.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g James Cutler Chesebrough, "The marches of David Wallis Reeves: Performance editions of three marches dedicated to Connecticut organizations" (January 1, 2005). Dissertations Collection for University of Connecticut. Paper AAI3180191. http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/dissertations/AAI3180191
  6. ^ Burkholder, J. Peter (1995). All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 15. ISBN 0300056427.
  7. ^ Gould, Neil (2008). Victor Herbert: a theatrical life. Fordham University Press. pp. 68–69.
  8. ^ Lincoln, Charles E. (1916). "Providence Musical Organizations, Past and Present". Providence Magazine. Vol. 28. Providence Chamber of Commerce. p. 720. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  9. ^ "American Brass Band records". Rhode Island Historical Society. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  10. ^ Fonder, Mark (Spring 1992). "The Patrick Conway Military Band School, 1922–1929". Journal of Research in Music Education. 40 (1): 64. doi:10.2307/3345775.
  11. ^ Martha Mitchell (1993). "American Band". Encyclopedia Brunoniana. Brown University Library.
  12. ^ "Reeves Fountain Dedicated". Christian Science Monitor. June 21, 1926. p. 2.

External links[edit]

Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March