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CBA History


Click here for a list of CBA Presidents


Click here for Historic Dates


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The CBA’s 75th Anniversary


  written by Ken Epp for Canadian Winds – September 2006


It’s been given up for dead more than once—and been put on life support a few times—but today, 75 years after its founding, the Canadian Band Association (CBA) is alive and doing well.


With a growing list of programs and services and programs to more than 1,500 members and 100,000 musicians, it’s hard to believe that there was a time when the CBA’s very survival was in doubt. But on at least two occasions the association was almost given up for dead, and all but one chapter has withdrawn its membership or ceased to exist at one time or another.


Yet the CBA has persevered and prospered—a testament to the hard work and hopes of so many key people who have prodded and pushed the organization to succeed.


The concept of the Canadian Band Association dates back to 1918 when Captain John Slatter proposed the formation of an association of Canadian bandmasters. Three years later Andrew "Al" Robertson and several Toronto businessmen arranged for the Canadian National Exhibition to offer cash prizes for a band contest.  In 1924 competing bandsmen at the CNE formed the Ontario Amateur Band Association (OABA), electing Charles Thiele as president.


On September 1, 1931, 35 bandmasters gathered at the CNE to form the Canadian Bandmasters Association and elect Slatter as President. Since their membership base was primarily in Ontario and Quebec, the new group focused on activities in those provinces. In 1937 the CBA successfully amended the Municipal Act of Ontario so that any community could vote to provide permanent support for their local band—something done by about 50 communities.


However interest in the association faded, and in 1942, 18 remaining members met to consider surrendering the charter.  Thiele and T. E. Jackson encouraged the organization to carry on. Jackson was elected as President and Robertson was appointed Secretary/Treasurer.


In 1948 the CBA absorbed the OABA and the CNE band contest became a CBA project.


First Provincial Presidents


  British Columbia - Lt. S. E. F. Sunderland, Esquimalt

  Alberta - F/Lt. Carl Friberg, Edmonton

  Saskatchewan - J. Norman Lehman, North Battleford

  Manitoba - C. P. O. Thos. I. Tucker, Winnipeg

  Ontario/Quebec - Paul Pratt, Longueil, QC

  Maritimes - Lt. K. A. Elloway, Halifax

   * Ontario and Quebec became separate chapters in 1963


There was a flurry of activity in 1954, beginning with an application for chapter status from Alberta. Over the next four years bandmasters from other provinces applied to join and, by 1958, the CBA had coast-to-coast representation. A national council was formed as a parent body with E. Von Ayres elected the first National President.


In the years that followed school band programs were introduced. Since there was little formal training available for teachers, the CBA responded by introducing its own Course of Instruction.  Courses and examinations were developed and diplomas of L.C.B.A. (Licentiate) and F.C.B.A. (Fellowship) were granted.


The death of Al Robertson in February, 1967 was hard on the CBA. As editor of the The Canadian Bandmaster and Secretary/Treasurer for 25 years, he was the face of the association to many members. That summer’s edition of The Canadian Bandmaster was almost entirely dedicated to Robertson’s memory, and included a testimonial from each chapter. 


Robertson’s passing, illness among several chapter leaders, and the growth of school based band proved challenging for the CBA. The publication ceased and, within two years, Nova Scotia reported it had separated from the Maritime chapter, and B.C. and Manitoba reported their chapters to be inoperative.


In 1969, partly in an effort to connect with school teachers, the CBA changed its name to the Canadian Band Directors Association and briefly affiliated with the Canadian Music Educators Association. The effort to attract teachers wasn’t successful; by 1971 both Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia were inactive, no meetings were being held by the Maritime chapter and Quebec had relinquished its charter. Only Alberta and Ontario remained.


There was little CBDA activity in the early 1970s, although it appears that Keith Mann was working to rekindle interest in the national association. By 1975 British Columbia was talking of reconstituting its chapter, and there was interest in Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. The following year representatives from B.C. and Manitoba received a travel subsidy to attend a national meeting.


This renewed interest led to discussion of a national syllabus and a National Youth Band and, in 1976, Mann released the first Canadian Band Journal.  It was printed as a high school project.  The next year Manitoba became the first province to rejoin the CBDA.



CBA Chapter History


British Columbia - joins in 1956, inactive in 1969, rejoins in 1999

Alberta – joins in 1954, withdraws in 2000, rejoins in 2002

Saskatchewan – joins in 1957, inactive in 1971, rejoins in 1983

Manitoba – joins in 1957, inactive in 1969, rejoins in 1977

Ontario – joint chapter status with Quebec begins in 1956, separates from Quebec in 1963, a second Ontario chapter joins in 2004

Quebec – joint chapter status with Ontario begins in 1956, separates from Ontario in 1963, relinquishes chapter status in 1971, rejoins in 1986, a second Quebec chapter joins in 2004

New Brunswick – joins as part of Maritime chapter in 1957, inactive in 1971, rejoins as part of Maritime chapter in 1986, forms provincial chapter in 1991

Prince Edward Island – joins as part of Maritime chapter in 1957, inactive in 1971, rejoins as part of Maritime chapter in 1986, connects through Nova Scotia chapter beginning in 1991

Nova Scotia– joins as part of Maritime chapter in 1957, inactive in 1971, rejoins as part of Maritime chapter in 1986, forms provincial chapter in 1991

Newfoundland/Labrador – joins in 1995, inactive in 2003


Yet more challenges lay ahead.  Two years after the first National Youth Band was held at the 1978 CBDA Conference in Toronto, Ontario reported that its Treasurer had taken out a personal loan to cover the chapter's debt. To make matters worse, the CNE discontinued its band contest in 1981.  Organizing this event had long been a source of pride for the association, and for 15 years the contest had contributed 7 percent of the prize money to the CBDA.  Ontario was on the verge of surrendering its charter.


At the 1982 annual general meeting, held at the Midwest Band Clinic in Chicago, the discussion focused on the CBDA's future. Although some feared the association wouldn’t survive, the lengthy meeting resulted in a new constitution, the election of an Executive representing the three member provinces, and the appointment of cabinet designates from the five non-member provinces.


Soon after the Chicago meeting Saskatchewan rejoined the association and, by late 1984, CBDA had established ties with the Federation des Harmonies du Quebec, begun discussions with the Canadian Stage Band Festival regarding a National Concert Band Festival, and hired Guy Mallabone as part time Managing Director.


In 1986, under the leadership of President Larry Pearen, the CBDA changed its name to the Canadian Band Association. Soon after, the Federation des Harmonies du Quebec and Maritime Band Association were accepted as chapters.  A sponsorship agreement with Air Canada followed and Saskatchewan's Band Week project was adopted as a national celebration in 1987. 


As the 1980s came to a close, several chapters secured government funding, while a new focus on school band led to a surge in membership.  A chapter was resurrected in British Columbia and discussion turned to reviving the National Youth Band and establishing a chapter in Newfoundland/Labrador.


The first NYB in 13 years performed at the 1991 CMEA conference in Vancouver. (For a more complete history of the NYB see Jim Forde's chronicle in CW 3.1)  Later that year the CBA's first Directory was printed and the Maritime Band Association was dissolved to allow Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to pursue funding as separate provincial associations. As well, PEI became part of the NSBA.


By 1994 the NYB had found a home at MusicFest and, in 1995, the birth of a CBA chapter in Newfoundland & Labrador connected every province to the national association.


As the new millennium approached, the CBA sought to secure its long-term stability by introducing a new dues formula, approving a chapter travel subsidy for the semi-annual national meetings, and creating a Long Term Plan.


In May, 2001 Keith Mann passed away.  Mann had been a pillar on the Canadian band scene and among many other things, served as editor of the Canadian Band Journal for 25 years.  When the CBA had been unable to sustain the journal financially, Mann insured continued publication and sent a copy to every CBA member.  His passing was mourned by the band community from coast to coast.


Recognizing the importance of a national journal, Don Harris put in place the groundwork for a new publication. Tim Maloney and Denise Grant were invited to serve as co-editors and, in 2002, the first issue of Canadian Winds was dedicated to the memory of Robertson and Mann.


Later that year the Newfoundland/Labrador chapter ceased operation, but Alberta rejoined the CBA after a two year absence.


In 2003 the CBA adopted a National Voluntary Curriculum and Standards for Instrumental Music (Band).  Chapter dues were increased to re-establish a part time Executive Director position and ensure the long-term survival of Canadian Winds and the National Youth Band. 


The following year the Quebec Band Association and Ontario Band Association joined the CBA.  Although both provinces were already represented on the board, the support of existing chapters in those provinces enabled the QBA and OBA to be included in the national association. 



CBA Programs & Services


  • Awards program

  • Canadian Winds

  • Concert Band Festival Repertoire

  • Chapter Directories

  • Monthly member Enews

  • National Youth Band

  • National Voluntary Curriculum and Standards for Instrumental Music (Band)



Today the CBA's strength lies with its chapters and the 100-plus programs and services the provinces offer. Semi-annual meetings provide an opportunity to share information about these activities, and it is not uncommon to see projects replicated in other chapters.


The dedication of numerous volunteers has enabled the CBA to face and surmount many challenges. Today the association, with its expanding roster of national programs and services, is well positioned to meet the challenges of the next 75 years.



Ken Epp was a member of the CBA Board of Directors from 1985-2014.  He has served as Secretary (1994-97), Treasurer (1998– 03), and Executive Director from 2004-2014.  A former band director (1977-1988), he served as the Manitoba Band Association’s Executive Director from 1986-2014.  He was selected as CBA National Band Award recipient in 2006, and received the MBA Award of Distinction in 2000.

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