University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. University Bands | University of Illinois Archives

Name: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. University Bands

Historical Note:

The University of Illinois Military Band was established in 1870 for the purpose of providing music for functions within the military department of the Illinois Industrial University. From 1868 to 1894, the band was administered by student leaders and from 1895 to 1904 was led by various university faculty members. From 1905-1907, the band was led by Albert Austin Harding, who was an undergraduate in engineering.

In 1907, Harding was named the first director of bands, serving in this role for over forty years (1907-1948) and leading the band to a position of national prominence. Under Harding, the University of Illinois band became the first band to perform at a collegiate baseball game (1906) and a collegiate football game (1907); one of the few collegiate bands to receive a march written by John Philip Sousa (1929); and a laboratory ensemble for many of Harding's mentees, which included William D. Revelli, Frederick Fennell, Clarence Sawhill, Ray Dvorak, and Glen Cliffe Bainum. In 1929, Harding became one of the founding members of the American Bandmasters Association.

In 1932, upon the death of John Philip Sousa, Sousa left his vast library of sheet music and original manuscripts in the care of the University of Illinois Band. In 1955, the Band Department had grown so large that they required a new building to be constructed. In 1958 the Harding Band Building was completed, becoming the first permanent building specifically constructed for a collegiate band program in the country.

Subsequent directors of the Band Department include: Mark H. Hindsley (1948-1970), Harry Begian (1970-1984), James F. Keene (1985-2008), Abel Saldivar Ramirez (2008-2009), Robert Rumbelow (2009-2014), Linda Moorhouse (2014-2015), Stephen Peterson (2015-2022), and Kevin Geraldi (2022- ). The University Band Department also saw the rise of several important assistant directors and directors of the Marching Illini, including: Ray Dvorak, Glen Cliffe Bainum, Clarence Sawhill, Everett Kisinger, Guy Duker, Eldon Oyen, Harvey Herman, Gary E. Smith, Ken Steinsultz, Peter Griffin, Tom Cavena, Roby George, Barry Houser, Jesse Leyva, Elizabeth Peterson, and Kimberly Fleming.

The Band Department is currently a unit of the University of Illinois School of Music, which is in turn a unit of the College of Fine and Applied Arts. Ensembles under the administration of the Band Department include the UI Wind Symphony, two symphonic bands, three concert bands, a British Brass Band, Clarinet Choir, the UI Basketball Band, the Orange & Blues and the Marching Illini.


University of Illinois Bands History, online at:

Nolan Vallier, "Passing the Baton," Sonorities Magazine 2023: 23-25.

Note Author: Nolan Vallier

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