Croydon Citizens' Bands Inc.

Members of the community making music for the community



The Croydon Citizens' Brass Band in 1965

The Croydon Citizens’ Band was formed in 1962 using instruments and music of the former Lillydale Shire Band and members from the Lillydale Shire and Ferntree Gully Bands. The new Brass Band rehearsed at what was then the Croydon Library. This building, in Mt Dandenong Road, on the eastern side of the Croydon Hall is now the Maroondah Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

The Band’s first Bandmaster was Ralph Williamson, who served until the beginning of 1969. Amongst the founding members were Cr. G N Frost of the newly established Shire of Croydon, who became the Band’s first President and Bill Leggatt, a local resident of Croydon, who was very community minded and later made a life member for his work with the Band. Rehearsals were on Friday evenings.


The Early Years

The Nissen Hut the Brass Band moved into in 1965

In June 1965 the Band moved to a Nissen Hut belonging to Joe and Ally Nicholas, local nursery owners, on the corner of Bayswater and Eastfield Roads. The Band set up lengthwise in the hut and, so the story goes, the bass players soon developed curvature of the spine; however frequent marching practice tended to correct this condition.

After just four years of existence the Band found itself struggling financially, but still managed eleven performances throughout 1966 and even took to performing in Croydon on Saturday mornings as a way of publicising the fledgling group. The Band attended two contests in 1965 and while no places were achieved, the Band received high praise for its efforts after only a few years of existence.

In 1966 the Band received its first grant of $100 from the Shire of Croydon. In addition, the Shire assisted the Band with insurance for equipment. Perhaps the most encouraging fact at this time was that sixteen members of the Band were under the age of twenty-one. Among these early members was Eric Klay, then playing the Euphonium, who went on to become the Principal Bass Trombone player with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a position which he still holds!

The Brass Band prepares for a local marching

The Brass Band at Moorabbin in 1967

By 1967, the financial situation of the Band had improved and the Shire of Croydon provided a special grant of $515 to assist with the purchase of instruments. This grant has continued in one form or another every year since that time, both from the Shire of Croydon and more recently, the City of Maroondah. Also in 1967, a ladies auxiliary was formed, which continued until the mid 1970s.

In 1969, Ralph Williamson resigned as Bandmaster due to ill health and was replaced by Eric Page, a graduate of the Royal Military School of Music (Kneller Hall) and music teacher at Croydon High School. By the end of the decade, the Band was functioning well and performing regularly in a wide variety of events including concerts, contests and marching engagements.

In 1970, the Band moved to the newly established Barngeong Reserve. The weatherboard building (a typical army style bungalow) had been transported from elsewhere and the Band had use of a rehearsal room and a storage room, which was most convenient. To extend the storage space, the Band cut a hole in the roof of the building and placed seldom used gear in the ceiling cavity.

The Brass Band at Ballarat in 1970

The band room at Barngeong Reserve

The Brass Band on the march
at Ballarat











The Croydon Concert Band Begins

The Australasian Bandsman was the official journal
of band associations in New South Wales,
Queensland, South Australia and Victoria

1971 proved to be a busy year for the Band, performing in public on twenty occasions and winning its first contest in D Grade at the LaTrobe Valley Eisteddfod. In July 1971, the organisation expanded through the formation of the Croydon Concert Band. The idea for the Band came from a letter published in the March 1971 edition of the “Australasian Bandsman” in which it was explained how a struggling brass band in South Australia had been turned into a thriving concert band through the recruitment of local woodwind players who had little or no outlet for their musical talents. The experiment had evidently been a great success and the writer urged any other band in the same situation to “give it a go”. In the case of the Croydon Citizens Band, the Band was not struggling and the new Band was formed as an additional ensemble. It was hoped that many Brass Band members would choose to become part of the Concert Band and so gain experience in a different form of ensemble. In addition, the Band proved to be an excellent way for local young musicians, especially those being taught by Eric Page at Croydon High School, to continue their musical endeavours after graduating.

By the middle of 1972, the Concert Band was fully established and under the direction of Eric Page, had performed on four occasions. While the Band room was certainly large enough for the Brass Band, the Concert Band found it quite a tight fit, and the Band had to work hard to raise funds to purchase new music, music stands and chairs. At the end of 1972, subscription fees were introduced to stimulate members’ feelings of involvement and commitment and to improve the financial situation of the organisation.

The Last Move (until the next one)

In May 1973, at the suggestion of the Croydon City Council, the Bands moved to Keystone Hall which was the original home of the Croydon (Youth) Club. The Bands have remained there ever since, although considerable extensions to the building have taken place over the years. The Bands’ storeroom was originally intended as a garage where the local youth club could repair and maintain cars, and the northern wall consisted only of steel mesh and a large steel mesh gate. To assist the Bands, the Council provided bricks and the Band provided the labour to replace the mesh with a brick wall and create a store room suitable for the Bands’ purposes.

By the middle of 1973 the Concert Band had been in existence for two years and had a membership of about fifty people. The Band had purchased all of the major percussion equipment required and about 70% of the Brass Band members also played in the Concert Band. Soon after its formation, the Concert Band attended a VBL Brass Band contest at the Malvern Town Hall to play for the audience as a demonstration of the tone colours and repertoire of a concert band. The Concert Band was the first such Band to register with the Victorian Bands’ League and was eventually graded as an A Grade Band. During the same period, the Brass Band purchased new uniforms consisting of dark blue blazers and continued to appear at contests. The Brass Band also organised and won its own D Grade contest at Croydon High School; another first! A Dixieland and dance band called “The Ruptured Ducks” was formed and the formation of chamber groups was also underway.

The Croydon Brass Band in Hobart, 1974

In 1974 the Croydon Citizens’ Band (the Brass Band) made its first interstate trip to compete at the 1974 Australian National Band Championships in Hobart. The trip was financed by a successful fete held in and around Keystone Hall and was regarded as the most significant achievement of the Band since its formation. Mrs. Elaine Butler, who became a Life Member of the organisation in 1979 was the Band Secretary and was particularly responsible for the Hobart Trip.

During 1974, the Presidency of the Band passed from Phil Baker to Doug Morison. Phil Baker had been President since 1964 and during his ten years as President oversaw the largest period of growth in the organisation, cementing the position of the Croydon Citizens’ Band and overseeing the formation of the Croydon Concert Band. During the same year, Eric Page resigned in order to move to Western Australia. Jack Butcher became the Musical Director of the Brass Band and Ian Viney, the Musical Director of the Concert Band.

The Brass Band at Mornington in 1975

During this time, the Brass Band shared a close relationship with the Wonthaggi Brass Band courtesy of Doug Morison. Doug was transferred to Wonthaggi as part of his work with the State Savings Band of Victoria, but continued to travel back to Croydon for quite some time and fostered a close relationship between the two Brass Bands. The Croydon Brass Band even visited the Wonthaggi Band for a weekend and the combined bands marched and played in the main street on Saturday, and played at Kernot outdoor market on the Sunday. There was also a combined marching practice at the Bass Racecourse. Several Wonthaggi Band members even registered with the Croydon Brass Band and played with the Band at contests, most notably the 1978 Australian National Band Championships at Kew, where Wonthaggi members can be seen wearing uniforms with fancy gold braid in old band photos.

The Croydon Concert Band in 1978

During his tenure, Jack Butcher (a National Champion on Flugel Horn on four occasions) raised the standard of the Brass Band from 'D' to 'B' grade. Jack said he enjoyed his time at Croydon, teaching junior players, and raising the general standard of the Band. A particular highlight was winning the South Australian 'C' grade championship in 1978 over eight other Bands and being placed third overall in the own choice display marching. Jack left Croydon in 1980 and moved to his beach home in Rye, and on leaving was made an Honorary Life Member of Croydon Citizens' Bands. He was already an Honorary Life Member of Malvern Band (1978). Jack went on to conduct the Shire of Flinders Concert Band from 1982 to 1991 and formed the Southern Peninsula Inter-Church Choir as well. In 1999, Jack was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to the community through brass bands and choirs.

The Brass Band in the late 1970s

Following Ian Viney, Hugh Davies took over as Musical Director of the Concert Band in 1976 and was involved in further developing the Band during his tenure, even taking the Band to the Australian National Band Championships in Sydney in 1975 while filling in for Ian Viney.

In 1979 the Concert Band began marching practice, while continuing with its other activities. The ability to carry out marching engagements helped to lessen the workload of the Brass Band for this type of performance. As its first marching performance the Concert Band took part in a Saturday morning parade through Croydon and then marched in the Moomba Parade.




The Ups and Downs of the 80's

In 1981, Hugh was posted to Kiribati (then the Gilbert and Ellis Islands) for 6 months with the Royal Australian Air Force Central Band to assist the island to set up a Band for their forthcoming independence celebrations. He later went back to Kiribati for a further six months. Hugh was awarded life membership of the Band on his departure in 1981. Upon his return to Victoria, Hugh took up a position as Musical Director of the Sale City Band. The departure of Hugh Davies led to the appointment of the Croydon Concert Bands’ longest serving Musical Director, Richard O’Toole.

In 1983, the Croydon Citizens Bands came of age and celebrated their 21st Birthday. In recognition of the services provided to the community by the bands the Shire of Croydon presented a conductor’s music stand to the organisation which was inscribed with a plaque to mark the occasion.

The Croydon Wind Symphony
at Box Hill in 1989

The Brass Band had a series of conductors throughout the 1980s beginning with Merv Preusker, a National Trombone Champion on six occasions, now playing with Hawthorn Band, followed by Bob Boyle, Keith Symes, Brian Marsh, and Jack Harris. The pressures of performing in B Grade and achieving results below expectations, together with the short tenure periods (and possibly in some cases the expectations of one or two musical directors) during this period led to a decline in morale in the Brass Band. A number of players departed as a result, while others left for unrelated reasons and due to low numbers the Band eventually became unclassified due to a lack of members.



Towards the Turn of the Century

During 1990 the Band attended rehearsals of the Ringwood Band for a few weeks as our Brass Band had a number of lower Brass players which complemented the Ringwood Band well as they were short of players in this area. Ian Douglas, the Band President at the time realised that this could easily spell the end for the Band if the remaining members lost their association with the Croydon Brass Band. The four remaining players came back to Croydon where they played through the hymn book and rehearsed selected pieces suitable to their instrumentation.

The Brass Band slowly rebuilt in the following year under Michael Jongebloed, and even managed to return to contest at the Latrobe Valley Eisteddfod. However, the Band was just one player short of the required number of players required to officially contest and played for adjudication purposes only. Michael Jonglebloed, went on to become a partner in Music Junction Blackburn (now Billy Hydes Music) was followed by Paul Barton as Musical Director who left after a short period with the Band.

The Croydon Concert Band, on the other hand, continued to prosper during the 1980s under the direction of Richard O’Toole, who worked to maintain the standard of the Band in A grade and put on a variety of concerts with artists such as Barry Crocker, Donald Cant, Judi Connelli and many more. Richard left the Band in 1987 to concentrate on the development of the Victorian State Youth Concert Band and was made a Life Member of the organisation on his departure. Richard was replaced by Bland Holt, an oboe player with the Australian Army Band (Melbourne). At this time the Band did not contest to maintain its grading and went down to B Grade. Bland left the Band in 1991 and Richard O’Toole agreed to return for another stint as Musical Director between 1992 and 1996.

In the late 1980s the organisation changed its name to the Croydon Citizens’ Bands, created a new logo and formed a second concert band, which resulted in the name of the original Concert Band changing to the Croydon Wind Symphony who are now well known throughout the community and recently won its second successive State Championship in B Grade.

From old to new - logos of the
Croydon Citizens' Bands

The Croydon Wind Symphony supported the Brass Band through these years and was instrumental in keeping the organisation going. The Wind Symphony performed regularly, staging its own concerts and performing in events for the Croydon City Council.

The second Croydon Concert Band was re-established in 1988 and has had several names during the 1990s including the Croydon Variety Band and Croydon Junior Band, but it has now reverted to its original title. This Band was initially conducted by Jack Harris, before being taken over by John Tacey and then Sarah Gill. During its early years, the Croydon Concert Band acted as a training Band for the Wind Symphony and aimed to attract younger players. Also during this period the Bands as a group became incorporated under law and much work was done by John Tacey to finalise the new constitution of the Croydon Citizens’ Bands Incorporated. Jack Harris continued this work by formulating subsidiary bylaws.

The Brass Band recovered a little before the appointment of Ken McColm in 1994, mainly due to the hard work of local musician Alf Green who served with the Band until his death in 1997. Alf and Ken were responsible for taking the Brass Band in various new directions during his eight-year tenure. During his time, Ken also took over the Croydon Concert Band, which became the Croydon Variety Band. Under his leadership the Bands grew once again, with the Brass Band returning to a membership of about 18 by the end of the 1990s and the Variety Band having about twenty members at its peak in the mid 1990s. The Brass Band competed for the first time in more than ten years at the Latrobe Valley Eisteddfod in 2001.

The early 1990s was a period of uncertainty for all the Bands as result of changes to local government introduced by the Kennett State Government. In particular the Shire of Croydon and City of Ringwood were combined to form the City of Maroondah, and there was even some talk of the Ringwood and Croydon Bands having to combine as well. Luckily, negotiations with the new Maroondah City Council indicated that there was room enough for all the Bands, and the Maroondah City Council remains incredibly supportive of all the Bands in Maroondah.

The Maroondah City Council have
been strong supporters of the
Croydon Citizens' Bands since the
formation of the Council in 1994

During 1994, the Croydon Wind Symphony briefly formed the Croydon Show Band which performed only once at the Croydon Festival at the beginning of 1995. This group was directed by David Billimoria and was made up of Wind Symphony members. It rehearsed after the Wind Symphony on Wednesdays, which made it difficult to maintain.

At the end of 1996, Richard O’Toole left the organisation to pursue other conducting interests and particularly to form the Melbourne Rainbow Band, which has quickly developed a reputation as one of the most versatile concert bands in Melbourne and has toured through Victoria and the United States.

Sue Cook was appointed in mid 1997 as Musical Director of the Croydon Wind Symphony after a short stint by David Billimoria as Musical Director. David was at that time (and still is) the Assistant Musical Director of the Croydon Wind Symphony. Sue took the Band to the Australian National Band Championships in 1998 where the Band was placed fourth. The Band struggled during these years with membership falling to about twenty-five members. However, the Brass and Variety Bands were functioning reasonably well at this time and so the situation of the Bands was somewhat reversed.

In 1998, the direction of the Croydon Variety Band changed and focus was placed on junior players and hence the Band was renamed the Croydon Junior Band. In particular, the Band catered to players who were being taught by Ken McColm at local primary schools and the Band quickly grew again to an active membership of twelve.

The Croydon Wind Symphony in 1998

The late 1990s also saw Ian Douglas and David Billimoria heavily involved in the activities of the Victorian Bands’ League Inc. Ian has been a member of the VBL Executive Council since 1982 and served as President from 1995 to 1998 and now continues as a Vice President. David Billimoria joined the Executive Council in 1998 and was President of the Victorian Bands’ League from October 2000 to October 2002.

Sue Cook left the Croydon Wind Symphony at the start of 1999 and in August of that year, Andrew Mathers was appointed as Musical Director after another short stint by David Billimoria as Musical Director. Since Andrew’s appointment, enthusiasm in the Band has grown and the Wind Symphony now has a regular membership of over 40 members. This enthusiasm paid off when the Band won its first B Grade state Championship in 2000.

Into the 21st Century

In 2001, the Croydon Wind Symphony celebrated its 30th Birthday in a combined concert with the Southern Area Concert Band, which also turned thirty.

In that year, the Croydon Citizens Bands changed once again with the departure of Ken McColm. The resulting appointment of Melina Benger to the Brass Band is a happy one for the Band as her father, Doug Morison, is a former President of the organisation. Doug now conducts the Echuca Federal Band. The Croydon Junior Band reverted to its original name of the Croydon Concert Band and is now under the direction of Andrea Crompton, who has been a player in the Croydon Wind Symphony since 1997. In addition, the Croydon Wind Symphony celebrated its second successive State Championship in B Grade; the contest was not held in 2001.

The Croydon Wind Symphony performs
in the 2002
Maroondah Community Concert Series
Premiere Concert, April 2002.


In its fortieth year, the Croydon Citizens’ Bands Incorporated is now made up of three active ensembles, The Croydon Brass Band, the Croydon Wind Symphony and the Croydon Concert Band, and is actively supported by the Maroondah City Council. The ensembles perform regularly at a variety of musical events including concerts and competitions as well as events for the Maroondah City Council such as the Maroondah Carols by Candlelight, Maroondah Festival in the Foothills and ANZAC commemorations. The Brass Band rehearses on Tuesday between 8.00pm and 10.00pm. The Concert Band rehearses at 6.30 pm on Wednesday. The Wind Symphony rehearses from 8.00pm on Wednesday evenings. New members are always welcome.

To celebrate its fortieth birthday, the Croydon Citizens’ Bands hosted the 2002 Maroondah Community Concert Series.

Members of the Croydon Wind Symphony
relax after winning the 2002
Victorian Concert Band Championships

Members of the Bands (L-R:
Melina Benger, Tamara Pearson,
Ian Douglas and
Phillip Lucas) pose with
Cr. Marj Munro (centre)
from the Maroondah City Council
in preparation for the
Croydon Citizens' Bands 40th Birthday
Concert Celebration

Members of the
Croydon Wind Symphony
in rehearsal (2002)

Croydon Wind Symphony in concert
October 2003, Luther College


After forty years, there is no sign of a mid life crisis. The Croydon Citizens’ Bands continue to perform for the local community and are confident of continuing far into the future.

(For more photos of band activities please see the Photos page.)