Wyoming Arts Council

Buffalo Bill Band recreates "Wild West" music

Mike Masterson, chair of the Northwest College Visual and Performing Arts Division in Powell and former Wyoming Arts Council board member, performs with a group of musicians that recreates the repertoire featured in performances of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show more than 100 years ago.

Here are some excerpts of a story about the group from the Billings Gazette by Ruffin Prevost:

“It was the Wild West show and Buffalo Bill that brought that notion of what an American citizen was like to the rest of the world, and the music was a big part of that,” said Masterson, a trombonist and music instructor who also teaches music history.

Masterson has spent more than 20 years researching the music from the Wild West show, visiting spots as diverse as Circus World Museum in Wisconsin and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve tracked a lot of it down by reading through old newspapers and programs. There is a long list of music that was played,” Masterson said. The show included a mix of popular tunes that were familiar to audiences and songs arranged specifically for featured action in the arena. A brass band of about two dozen musicians typically played throughout the two-hour show, as well as before and after the show.

Because the Wild West began before effective recording or electrified amplification, it relied on an engaging live band to help set the tone for performances, Masterson said.

“They tried to match up with the emotional content, like a soundtrack in a movie today,” he said.

Masterson will lead the Buffalo Bill Band on March 20 in Denver, during a featured performance for the annual conference of the Society for American Music. Paul Fees, a historian and former curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum at the BBHC in Cody, will narrate the performance, offering historical context and a slide show of images from the Wild West show. The band also plays March 18 at Northwest College and March 19 at Casper College.

P.S.: William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s birthday is Feb. 26. He was born just west of the Mississippi River near LeClaire, Iowa in 1846.

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