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Sousa Archives Opens New Online Exhibit UPDATE

The Sousa Archives’ new online exhibit celebrates the unique history of the Urbana High School’s band department, and reveals the national and local band trends that influenced the creation of the community’s oldest high school band department.  The exhibit also documents the influences of John Philip Sousa, A. Austin Harding, and the American School Band Movement’s influences on this music program.  In addition the exhibit highlights the Urbana High School Band’s influence on local community music-making through the life of one of its alumna, Barbara Blaford.

Thanks to Joseph Rank we have learned that the Urbana High School’s original school song, Orange and Black was written in 1915 and was used as its alma mater until at least the 1970s. The lyrics were written by Horace Bryan Garman (the late father-in-law of retired Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman) and the music was written by Alfred Henry Beckwith. According to Joe, “It was used much like the University of Illinois’ Illinois Loyalty and Oskee Wow Wow. The peppier On Urbana was considered Urbana’s fight song. I suspect Orange and Black fell out of favor because it was very difficult to play with lots of clarinet runs.”

Listen to a 2015 recording of the song performed by the Urbana High School Concert Band conducted by Darren Hicks for the 50th reunion of the 1965 class.  Joe Rank’s son, Bill, re-scored the song from an incomplete set of marching band parts found in the school’s band library.

In addition we have one correction to make for our online exhibit. We mistakenly identified Kenneth Peters as assistant director of the Urbana band. He served as the designated Director of the Urbana band between 1977 and 2001. Special thanks to Mr. Peters for pointing out this error to us. For further information about the legacy of the Urbana High School Band and the University of Illinois Band programs email Sousa Archives or call 217-333-4577.

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