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Events to highlight Sousa and his ties to first band director at Illinois

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in collaboration with the University Bands, is celebrating the campus’s rich music legacy with free public events on Feb. 19 and 20 (Saturday-Sunday).

The events include open houses at the Sousa Archives, a walking tour of the Sousa music collections, a presentation on the evolution of one significant large-bore trombone and an exhibit of photos and artifacts highlighting John Philip Sousa’s association with A. Austin Harding, Illinois’ first director of University Bands, and the development of the university’s world-class band program.

The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music is located in Room 240, Harding Band Building, 1103 S. Sixth St., Champaign.

The Sousa events, times and locations include:

Feb. 19

10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, open house;

11 a.m. to noon, Sousa Archives, “Why So Many Piccolos, Mr. Sousa? – Saving America’s Music Heritage,” a walking tour of the John Philip Sousa music collections presented by Scott W. Schwartz, archivist for music and fine arts and director of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music;

“This is an opportunity to enjoy the story behind the university’s music collections and learn more about the center’s vision for preserving America’s music heritage,” Schwartz said.

Feb. 20

11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Sousa Archives, open house;

11 a.m. to noon, Sousa Archives, presentation titled “The Conn Large-bore Trombone: A Turning Point in American Music History,” by Lloyd Farrar, retired professor of musicology, Montgomery College, Rockville, Md., and a graduate of the
U. of I.; and Robert Gray, professor emeritus of trombone at Illinois.

According to Schwartz, Farrar will demonstrate and talk about one of the first Conn 88H trombones manufactured in its Elkhart, Ind., plant in 1954, “the very instrument that Farrar performed on for his senior trombone recital at Illinois that same year,” Schwartz said. At the conclusion of the presentation, Farrar will donate his Conn trombone and several other historic instruments from his collection to the university. He previously donated to the university several historic trumpets, cornets, trombones and a Baroque violin and flute.

Noon to 10 p.m., lobby, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, “The Heart of America’s Band: The Illini Legacy,” an exhibit of rare photos and artifacts from the university’s extensive music collections, including a 1924 sarrusophone that Harding purchased for the University Bands.

Under reorganization and new leadership, the archives and center are rapidly becoming a vital repository of three major music collections: wind band material, including Sousa music, artifacts and instruments; electronic and computer music; and what Schwartz said is “an incredible ethnomusicology collection.”

The U. of I. is home to nearly 75 percent of the extant Sousa materials, including original scores and parts, published music and manuscripts, personal papers, photographs, programs, news clippings, broadsides and artifacts, such as the baton Sousa used to conduct the University Concert Band in 1930, a pair of his white kid gloves, which he always wore while conducting and his wooden music stand, which he used throughout much of his performance career.

The collection has grown to include the music, instruments and artifacts of many former Sousa band members, including first cornetist Herbert L. Clarke and vocal soloist Virginia Root. In addition, the center has a diverse collection of band instruments, uniforms and some more unusual instruments, including the boombass, octavin and ophicleide.

The Sousa events are being held in conjunction with a large campus celebration, including a concert and a reunion, sponsored by the university’s Alumni Association and the Alumni Band Association.

The weekend celebration is, in fact, a triple header celebrating three anniversaries: the 100th anniversary of the appointment of A. Austin Harding as the first director of University of Illinois Bands; the 30th anniversary of the formation of the Alumni Band; and the 20th anniversary of the appointment of James F. Keene as the fourth director of bands.

More details about the weekend celebration.