The Bois d’ Arc Dixieland Band
The Bois d’ Arc Dixieland Band was formed in 1996 after Russell Armstrong (banjo) returned from a trip to Disney World with his family. Being a life-long drummer, Russell was intrigued when he watched a Dixieland band perform outside one of the shops at Disney World. The 6-piece group stood on the street corner and played traditional Dixieland music to a large crowd that had gathered to listen. The band included a trumpet player, a clarinet player, a trombone player, a banjo player, a stand-up bass player, and the percussion guy played a washboard-type instrument rather than drums. The washboard had a cymbal, cowbell, and woodblock mounted to it and the instrument was played by rubbing and/or striking the instrument with metal thimbles that were taped to all fingers & thumbs.
Russell shared with his family that he was going to go back to Commerce, Texas, put together a washboard and then try to start a Dixieland Band. Russell knew that the Music Department at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) would be the best place to start to find the musicians.
All of the original band members were on the faculty at the university with the exception of Russell Armstrong who owned a local investment firm. The original band members included: Conrad Bauschka, Trumpet Professor, Dr. James Deaton, Music Department Head and Clarinet Professor, Mr. Jimmy Clark, Trombone Professor, Mr. Ed Jones, Tuba Professor, Dr. Stuart Anderson, Math Professor who played the 5-string banjo, and Russell Armstrong, Financial Planner on the washboard.
The group had a few practices throughout the year and in September of 1996, the group made it’s debut at the 12th annual Bois d’ Arc Bash in Commerce, Texas. The Bois d’ Arc Bash is an annual community celebration sponsored by the Commerce Chamber of Commerce. As a side note…Commerce is home of the 2nd largest Bois d’ Arc tree in Texas.
Over the years, the personnel have changed; however, the traditional New Orleans Dixieland Jazz style has remained the same.
The Bois d’ Arc Dixieland Band has performed at political rallies, funerals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, community celebrations, private parties, and public concerts.