George H. Ziegler was a true Music Man, having devoted his life to music and his service to his community. Born August 1 1889, he lived and worked through the Great Depression, both World Wars and the affluent times that followed. He saw his community change its name from Berlin, Ontario to Kitchener after World War II. He was blessed with a great musical talent, leadership skills and a wealth of opportunities to develop them. Long before his association with the Kitchener Musical Society, George had already enriched the lives of many through his music. He was born and educated in Kitchener (Berlin). As one would expect, his family had a rich musical heritage. His father was a skilled cornetist and trombonist. George's brother was a percussionist. He played in the Ziegler Family Orchestra and at the age of 13, became the youngest member in the Berlin Musical Society Band playing flute and piccolo. By the time he was 20, he had earned his LTCM for piano and three years later, his ATCM for organ from the Toronto Conservatory of Music. He was fortunate to study in Toronto with some of the great names in organ, symphonic and band music and during that time played flute with the Toronto Philharmonic and Welsman Symphony Orchestras. He also studied in New York and Buffalo.
Following his studies, he returned to Kitchener in 1910 and became organist and choirmaster at St. Peter's, St. Andrew's and settled at Trinity for 33 years (1917-1950). There he performed many organ recitals. He supervised the design and installation of several pipe organs. He founded the Berlin Conservatory of Music and was its Principal for 60 years. In 1914, George Conducted the Berlin Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in support of the Belgian Relief Fund. There was also a large Conservatory choir during those years.
Ziegler became the conductor of the KMSB in 1925. During the next 43 years, he organized junior boys bands, a Ladies Band (the world's largest in 1925 at 94 members), several all brass bands and saxophone bands. During his tenure as leader, the growth and popularity of band music was unparalleled. Every Thursday evening concerts at the bandshell in Victoria Park drew large crowds; sometimes up to 1000 people. It was a time and place for people to socialize. One person writing to the Record reported that they could not hear the music because people were chatting through the entire concert. The number of attendees at concerts gradually decreased as television became more popular. It was during the War years that the Band was the official band of the Royal Highland Fusiliers. Today, the Band still performs several open air concerts in the Park during the summer. See the summer concert schedule for details. Ziegler instilled a love of music in many young people, some of them joining the senior band before they were teenagers.
One of those young men was Laverne Hett. The grandson of one of the members of the original 1877 Band recalls with great pride and emotion the first place awards he and his friends won individually and collectively at the Canadian National Exhibition summer after summer where they travelled to Toronto to compete. Among those friends were Don Jukes; trombone, Eric Traugott; cornet, Robert Reipert and Harvey Gleiser Jr.; euphonium who were all soloists and contest winners at the 1942 CNE and many others. The Junior Band would practice two or three times a week. In addition to school work, this kept the young musicians very busy. Laverne retired from the Band in 2005 after more than 60 years of service to the band. During those years, he served as band historian, librarian and principal trombonist.
Ziegler composed many works for his bands, choirs and orchestras. Many of them were performed. However, most of the original manuscripts were burned along with the entire library of music and band instruments when fire consumed the band practice hall in downtown Kitchener in 1959. After the fire, the Kitchener Musicians Association presented a new set of bell chimes to Mr. Ziegler and the Musical Society at a concert in Victoria Park in 1960. Doug Frey, percussionist, demonstrated the bells which are still in use today with the Band. Doug retired from the band in 2006 after more than 50 years of service. Many other musicians from the Ziegler era have made music (and the Kitchener Musical Society Band) a large part of their lives: Wilmer Strome; clarinet, James Fulton; percussion, James Small; trumpet, Donald Jacobi; clarinet/oboe, William Reick; alto horn, Leon Stroh; flute, Willi Bauer; french horn, Doug Hainsworth; clarinet, Bruce Reuel; trumpet and John Smith; trombone.
Mr. Ziegler introduced hundreds of other young people to music and his legacy is a rich one. He was able to live the dream of making a career of music; something rare that none of his predecessors (and very few excellent musicians today) have been fortunate enough to enjoy. He remains the longest standing leader of the Kitchener Musical Society for 43 years.
He died Oct. 22, 1981.
taken from various newspaper articles, the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music and an article (one in
the series) on members of the Waterloo County Hall of Fame at Doon Pioneer Village, Kitchener.