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Parkland College Band Records Newly Acquired

Parkland Concert Band, Ernie Hoffman playing the bells, performing at Lodge Park, Monticello, Illinois, 1987.

The Sousa Archives acquired the Parkland College Band Records in December, and completed the finding aid to the new collection earlier this past week.  This is a wonderful addition to our local Urbana-Champaign music collections.

The Parkland College Band started forming December 8, 1969 and began rehearsals the first week of January 1970, two and half years after classes first started at the community college. Carolyn Whitney, who helped start the original band, served as its director for the first season and its first concert took place on March 3rd of that year.  An announcement placed in Champaign’s News-Gazette on February 27, 1970 invited instrumentalists with at least two years of experience to join the free, non-credit, class as a community band.  The first rehearsal began with twelve musicians but after six weeks, the ensemble had doubled in size.  In 2001, the community ensemble had grown to 117 members.

The band originally rehearsed in the basement of the First Methodist Church in downtown Champaign.  However, because of the rehearsal hall’s low ceiling, the band eventually moved its rehearsals to the Jefferson Life Building on Hill Street.  Beginning in 1978 the community band finally began regular rehearsals on the Parkland College campus.

Although Carolyn Whitney served as the band’s first director, her music background was choral music.  When Erwin “Ernie” Hoffman, hired in 1970 as a full-time faculty member for Parkland’s music department, he started as the college’s choral director even though his music background was directing wind ensembles.  However, beginning in 1971, he took over directorship of the Parkland band from Whitney, who became the college’s choir director, and he remained the band’s director until 1996.  Since Hoffman’s departure from Parkland College, the band has had eight different conductors including William Worra (1997-2001), Gregory Grove (2001-2005), Jeffrey Marshall (2005-2008), Verlin Richardson, Joseph Manfredo and Michael Allen (Fall 2008), Joseph Manfredo (2009-2011) and Lawrence Stoner (2011-2020).  Currently Matthew Dixon, a trombonist and DMA alumnus from the University of Illinois, became the Parkland Band’s eighth director in 2020.

The Parkland College Band continues to serve the community by providing a creative performance outlet for amateur instrumentalists, and brings together different communities through collaborations with high school bands and other community bands around Central Illinois.  The collection consists of concert programs, correspondence, course syllabi, newspaper clippings, and photographs documenting the band between 1973 and 2019.  It also includes a newly published history of the band, Parkland Concert Band: The First Fifty Years that was published in 2021.  Special thanks to Connie Fairchild and Marilyn Marshall for making this important acquisition possible.  Those interested in looking at the newly created collection finding aid can access it here.  For further information about this and the Sousa Archives’ other historical music collections please call 217-333-4577.

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