Military music was introduced to Finland by folk musicians, pipers and drummers. Finnish military music has at least 452 year-long national traditions if the 1544 Diet of Västerås is regarded the starting point. During this period King Gustav Wasa wanted to strengthen the structure of Sweden-Finland by a national army. Following German models, infantry troops were formed. The first Finnish troops with pipers, drummers, cavalry buglers and kettle drummers were established to fight in the Russian War of 1555-1557.
As the son of Gustav Wasa, Duke John settled at Turku Castle, a period of magnificent court life was started. John had his own court band, whose directors were the Dutch-born Jören van Heiden and Blasius Fischer. It can be presumed that the court band performed the same kind of tasks as our present band of representation, the Guards Band.
At the Diet of 1682, the majority of provinces in Sweden-Finland adopted the military tenure system. In Finland, the military tenure system was accepted in the mid 1690's (not until 1733 did Ostrobothnia join the system). An order was issued that salaries be paid for a total of 28 players in a regiment. A four-man headquarters band was added to the strengths of regimental headquarters according to the European 'Hautboist' model.
In the early 1700's, the time of the Great Wrath and the Small Wrath was a period of regression for Finnish military music. There was some improvement in the mid 1700's, and during the reign of Gustav III military music experienced a renaissance in the whole country. According to the European model, the composition of the bands was changed to that of 'Janissary ' bands with percussion instruments.
In the early 1800's, the most impressive band in Finland was the Band of the Queen Dowager's Regiment. In January 1788, Bernhard Henrik Crusell joined the band as a student. Crusell was born in 1775 at Uusikaupunki. He was the first internationally known Finnish wind instrumentalist. Having served three years in the Band of the Queen Dowager's Regiment, Crusell moved to Stockholm and became a clarinet player of the Stockholm Court Band in 1792. He gained international fame through numerous concert tours in different parts of Europe. Thanks to his versatile composition work, Crusell has been named the father of Finnish art music. As a developer and promoter of Finnish wind instrument and military music, he can also be called the spiritual father of military musicians in our country. This is clearly shown by Crusell's March, the common tradition march of the military bands. During Finland's autonomy period, there were three army systems: the enlisted, military tenure and conscripted army with a total of 23 military bands. In addition, the Navy was represented by the Band of the enlisted 1st Finnish Naval Battalion from 1830 to 1863, and the Band of the short-lived 2nd Finnish Naval Battalion from 1854 to 1856. Finnish cavalry music of this period was performed by the Dragoon Regiment Band, established at Lappeenranta in 1899. There were a total of 28 military unit bands from 1812 to 1905.
Most significant is the Band of the Finnish Guards (the Guards Band today), found in Luolaja at Hämeenlinna in 1819. It is the oldest Finnish orchestra with 177 years of continuous activity. The first Finnish director of the Band of the Finnish Guards was Adolf Fredrik Leander, influential in Finnish military music in the 1800's. He is also called the father of the Finnish brass septet.
The army bands of independent Finland received their initial training at Korsholma Military Music School near Vaasa. The school was founded in 1918. It was followed by the Army Musician School in 1926. Today the school is known as the Military Music School in Häme Regiment at Lahti. Presently there are in Finland 12 military bands, the Conscript Band of the Defence Forces and the Military Music School.
Although the number, strengths and locations of the military bands have changed quite often during our independence, the bands have retained their position in the Defence Forces as part of Finnish society and culture.