William Merseburgh - 3rd Bandmaster of the Royal Hawaiian Band

William Merseburgh (Merseberg) was born in Eisenach, Stadt Eisenach, Thueringen, Germany in 1819 and emigrated to Hawai'i where he married Ali'i High Chiefess 'Emma' Kealii Kamakanoanoa. They were the 3X great grandparents of H.R.H. Prince Darrick and parents-in-law of H.E. Col. Robert Hoapili Baker. William became naturalised in the Hawaiian Kingdom on 3 May 1848.

And in the year of his naturalisation, William was appointed as the third Bandmaster of the Kings Band by King Kamehamhea III. This band was later to become known as the Royal Hawaiian Band. He was initially contracted for 5 years yet served as Bandmaster for 22 years from 1848 to 1870. He led an ensemble of at least 10 members who played flute, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, drums and other brass instruments. This ensemble began with Hawaiian and non Hawaiian players, but by 1860 the band consisted of all Hawaiian band members.

In 1848, the Band members signed contracts to serve, noting they "agree to serve under the orders of William Merseburgh, the captain appointed by His Majesty … (and) to meet from time to time for the purpose of practicing and improvement in instrumental music. We agree to play for the king and for the other officers of the government whenever called on by our captain for such reasonable compensation as he shall award, not less than one dollar nor more than three dollars per man for any time not to exceed one day." (Hawaiian Star, September 22, 1906)

The Merseburgh family followed in their forefather's footsteps.

  • Ali'i Robert Hoapili Baker II (grandson) became the Royal band of Hawaii's 8th Bandmaster.
    Henry Kaleialoha Allen
  • Henry Kaleialoha Allen (great grandson), Hawaiian musician, was presented with the coveted Music Foundation of Hawaii 4th Annual Legacy Award for his lifetime achievement in the field of music as a master of jazz guitar and the Hawaiian steel guitar.
    John Topolinski (right)
  • Kumu hula John Renken Kaha‘iali‘i Topolinski (great-great grandson) is a tradition keeper of the Hula and ancient music of Hawai'i; a noted composer and a master feather craftsman.
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