American School Band Directors Association (1953-) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: American School Band Directors Association (1953-)

Historical Note:

The American School Band Directors Association, or ASBDA, is a professional association of band directors teaching at the elementary- or secondary-school level. Established in 1953, its objectives were to represent school band directors in the academic and business communities; to foster the exchange of ideas and methods that will advance the standards of musical and educational achievement; to stress the importance of the school band in the educational process and establish bands as a basic course in the school curriculum; to maintain a program for the improvement of school bands through research and experimentation; and to cooperate with existing associations that share the aim of promoting the band as a worthwhile medium of musical expression. Membership (by invitation) was and is open to active school band directors with a minimum of five years’ teaching experience who command the respect of their colleagues for the standard of performance and musicianship achieved by their bands.

The organization was initially led by Dale C. Harris, who was both a founding member and the organization's first president. In addition to his duties as president, Harris was a long-time band director at Pontiac High School in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, Michigan. Harris had previously served as the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association and wished to develop a national organization devoted to elementary and secondary school band directors. At Harris's behest, fifty-nine delegates, including Edwin Franko Goldman and A. Austin Harding, met in Cedar Rapids, IA with the goal of establishing both an organization for school band directors and developing a comprehensive program for members to develop robust and successful programs. The first Executive Board of the ASBDA consisted of Harris (President); Pat Arsers (Vice President); R. Cedric Anderson (Secretary); George Patrick (treasurer); and John Farinacci, Dean L. Harrington, and H. L. Lidstrom (members at large). At this meeting, the organization also determined that The School Musician should become the official magazine of the organization.

In 1962, the organization published its first course of study for school band directors; this was followed in 1966 byThe Curriculum Guide, a step-by-step guide to teaching band that was given to new members or available for purchase for non-members. This book, officially published in 1973, included a revised publication in 1997. The ASBDA published on numerous research topics that were guided by the practical knowledge learned by master band directors.

In 1964, the organization presented its first award, the Edwin Franko Goldman Award to Capt. James Harper. The award was intended to serve as a token of appreciation for outstanding personal contributions to the school band movement. This award was given to several non-ASBDA recipients including Frank Simon, William D. Revelli, Karl King, Glenn Cliff Bainum, Mark Hindsley, Clarence Sawhill, and Frank Battisti. The association began presenting the A. Austin Harding Award in 1980 to individuals for valuable and dedicated service to the bands of America. The first recipient of this award was Leonard Falcone and other recipients include: Frederick Fennell, Donald Hunsberger, Paul E. Bierley, Alfred Reed, and Frank Tichelli. Additional past and present awards offered by the organization include the Carl Fischer Award, the Stanbury Award for young band directors, and the Al and Gladys Wright Lifetime Service to Bands Award.

In 1973, the ASBDA received a sizeable donation from H.B. Volkwein, which has allowed the organization to function through the 2000s. The organization's finances were overseen by longtime member, president, and treasurer Ross Leeper, who was a core founder of the ASBDA Education Foundation in 1987. In addition to securing sources of funding for the organization's long-term future, the foundation has funded projects that include an original score by James Curnow and a CD reissue of the Pontiac High School Silver Anniversary Concert, featuring Dale C. Harris, Edwin Franko Goldman, and William D. Revelli among others.

In 1994, the organization was cited as an one of the few professional music organizations that quickly adopted Title IX changes. In its innagural year, the organization did not accept any female directors. Although only two women were invited to join the ASBDA in the 1950s, this number quickly increased. By 1992, 141 of the organization's 1351 members were female. Carol Snook, who served as the organization's secretary in 1986, was the first woman elected to an executive position. Marriane Sandstrom was elected as the first female president in 1995. Organizational records suggest that gender equality is increasing in the organization.

Since its founding, the organization has held an annual conference in various US cities. Several conference sites include cities in Illinois, including Urbana (2nd conference), Joliet (6th conference),  Evanston (36th conference), and Lisle (46th conference). In 2009, the organization changed its conference structure, so national conventions would meet biannually with regional conferences occuring in the off-years. The ASBDA continues to grow and expand as an organization and its biannual conference remains the principal vehicle for change within the organization.


(Music Grove Online "")

Ryan M. Yahl, "An Updated History of the American School Band Director's Association," DMA Dissertation, Indiana University, 2018.

Judith K. Delzell, "Variables Affecting the Gender-Role Stereotyping of High School Band Teaching Positions," Visions of Research 16, no. 5 (Autumn 2010): 77-84.

Note Author: Nolan Vallier

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