Cathay Club [Cathay Music Society]
- Nancy Yunwha Rao
[Cathay Music Society]
Sponsored by the Chinese Six Companies Association, it was formed in 1911 by 13 Chinese teenagers in San Francisco and was the first Chinese Western-style marching band in America. Later its members created the Cathay Club, or Cathay Music Society, which fostered multiple bands and social activities, including a small Chinese instrument ensemble. Bookings ranged from the Orpheum Circuit, which involved tours to the Midwest and South under such names as the Chinese Military Band and the Chinese Jazz Band, to various world fairs, including the Panama Pacific International Exposition (1915). The Cathay Club also provided music at holiday parades and funeral processions for generations of San Franciscans, a tradition absent in other American Chinatowns. It grew to 30 members in the 1930s and around 100 at its peak, when it included a senior band, a junior band, a glee club, and two dance bands. The Cathayans Orchestra and Chinatown Knights, formed by Cathay Club members in the 1920s and 30s, were the first all-Chinese dance bands in the United States, performing big band music through the 1950s. In ...