William Kaiser

Towards the latter years of the Glebe band, there was an opposition band which proved to be the nucleus of the Berlin Musical Society which celebrated its 125th birthday in 2001.

In 1866, the Kaiser band was organized at a meeting held in the market building. William Kaiser, who was considered one of the foremost band musicians of Detroit and Windsor, had come to Berlin in 1862 and became head of the new organization which was successfully launched. When he died in 1905, his obituary called him "first leader of the band" and "the father of band music in this town".

This new aspirant for public favour and honour was a thorn in the side of the veteran Glebe, according to a story in Berlin Today (1806-1906) and feeling between the leaders ran high. Some of the encounters between them were amusing and at times spirited, though never fraught with serious results.

Glebe eventually retired from Berlin and "took hold of the musical talent in Waterloo".

Among those enrolled as early members of the Kaiser band were Noah Zeller, E flat clarinet; William Kaiser, Ben H. Ziegler and Albert Ziegler, B flat cornet; George Lippert and John S. Smith, E flat cornet; William Fleischhauer, Fred Kress and Henry Moebus, alto; Louis Seip, bass; William Kaiser Jr., horn; Ambrose Schill and George Schaefer, trombone. The total membership was about 15 and the instrumentation was almost entirely brass. Zeller, a student of Kaiser’s succeeded him as leader in 1880. He was also leader of the Waterloo band and inter-town rivalry made him decide to stay with Waterloo two years later.

Kaiser was born in Hamm, Westphalia, Prussia, Germany in 1822 and came to this continent in 1857. He first went to Detroit as an instructor in the city band, but after a short time he organized a military band which was highly successful. During that period he was also instructor of a band in Windsor.

In 1862 he came to Berlin and lived in a house on King Street East near the later Stirling Avenue. He also opened a hotel which he ran for many years.

While Kaiser was the Berlin bandmaster, he also taught the bands at Preston, Elmira and New Germany (Maryhill) and for a time, the Waterloo Band. He was a master artist on almost every instrument and gave lessons at his house until just before his death April 9, 1905 from la grippe at the age of 82.

His obituary said, "during the last week or two, three prospective students had applied and he gave them encouragement that as soon as he became stronger, he would begin their tuition."

Noah Zeller, who had returned in 1900 to lead the band then known as the 29th Regiment Band, and a few members had arranged to go to his house on Sunday and play for him on the very day he died. "But the final reveille sounded for him before they came."

The funeral service was conducted on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the family residence by Rev. Emil Hoffman. The members of the 29th regiment played the Dead March as the remains were conveyed from the residence to Mount Hope Cemetery. Kaiser was a Lutheran and a staunch Conservative. His wife Caroline (née Wittheff) predeceased him on Feb. 5, 1904 at age 73. He was survived by his children, Mrs. Morris Smith, and Mrs. George Lippert of Berlin; Mrs. Ephriam Runstedler of Walkerton; Mrs. John McKenzie of Buffalo, New York; William Jr. of London; Albert of Walkerton; and Charles of West Branch, Michigan.