The creation of the Thomists in 1965 was the result of several coincidental circumstances. Saint Joseph's College had just closed to make way for the Université de Moncton. Harry Rigby had been a teacher at Saint Joseph's and had a high school band operating there. The position of Dean of Men became available at St. Thomas in Fredericton and he was hired. Harry had been operating bands since he was 16 in his native Dublin, and after he immigrated to Canada in 1947 he became well known for his dance band in the Saint John area.
As it happened, most of the senior students in the Saint Joseph's band decided to attend STU and arrived on campus the same day as Harry. At the same time several other musicians from Madawaska Maine also arrived in the freshman class that year. They came together to see what kind of music they could make and The Thomists dance band was born.
What about a name for the band? Several ideas were tossed around: The Tom-Cats, Tommies, Tomistics... and worse. Some of the St. Jo's recruits were studying Thomistic Philosophy and since followers of St. Thomas Aquinas and his philosophy were known as "Thomists", that was suggested and that's what stuck.
The band was paid fifty dollars for their first ever gig at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Fredericton. It didn't take long for word to spread and bookings poured in. The band played virtually every St. Thomas and University of New Brunswick function that included dancing; every faculty and seasonal party and every campus event. Students would line up at 9 a.m. to get tickets for the legendary STU "Socials". Soon the off-campus jobs exceeded the campus ones. The Thomists became one of the most sought after bands in the province during the 60s, 70s, and early 80s.
In the 80s things began to change. Many organizations could no longer afford to pay for an 18 piece band and now opted for smaller groups and even - Ugh ! ! - disk jockeys. Now that the band was no longer a practical option for small government office parties, service club socials, or regular student dances, most of the band's activities then centered around large scale events, conventions and conferences. The slowdown in pace was actually welcomed by many of the band members. It was now possible to have a social life, something that was difficult to achieve in the early years. This trend continued into the 90s. Musicians came and went, but the music and format remained the same.
In this new millennium the band's popularity remains. Close to 10 years ago Harry passed the Band's leadership torch to trumpet player and longtime Thomist Roy Stevens. Roy has ensured the band stays true to its musical roots. 2015 saw the band celebrate its 50th anniversary. Who would have thought that a small university without a music department would produce one of the most unique and long-standing dance bands in Canada.
Copyright 1965. The Thomists. All Rights Reserved.