ASU bands celebrate a century with year-long concert series

The Tempe Bulldogs Marching Band was founded on Sept. 20, 1915, by Lillian Williams (center, with saxophone)

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Lillian Williams, hired in the early 1900’s to offer instruction in orchestral and band instruments, founded Arizona State University’s first band in 1915, when the school was still the teachers’ college Tempe Normal School. Several directors and 100 years later, ASU’s program has grown to include the Wind Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Concert Band and several athletic bands.

“I’m thrilled to be here at a time when we are celebrating the [one] hundredth anniversary of the organization,” said Gary Hill, director of bands and conductor of the ASU Wind Orchestra.

As part of this celebration, Hill and his colleagues have planned a series of concerts to feature music from each of the past 11 decades.

“There is really great repertoire for every single decade, and that’s how the idea came about to do a retrospective concert for each decade of the band’s existence,” said Hill. “Frankly, the challenge is what not to play because there’s so much wonderful music to choose.”

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of ASU Gammage, the series began in early October with a concert of music from the 1960s. Subsequent concerts will progress through the decades, culminating in the official anniversary concert in fall of 2015, date forthcoming, which will include music from both the 1910s and a newly commissioned work from 2015.

“The students are enjoying getting to play really substantive literature with every single piece in this series,” said Hill.

This November, two concerts will feature masterpieces from the 1970s, from Joseph Schwantner’s “…and the mountains rising nowhere” to Frank Zappa’s “Dog Breath Variations.”

The chance to experience the real masterpieces from each decade of music is the real draw of the series for both performers and audience members according to Wayne Bailey, associate director of bands and conductor of the ASU Wind Ensemble.

"As we celebrate 100 years of bands at ASU the conductors have an opportunity to look back on how wind band music has developed over that same time,” Bailey said. “In so doing, today's students are introduced to many great works of the past that they probably have never played, and the audience gets to hear some of its favorite band pieces."

Experience the concerts in the “ASU Bands at 100!” series:

Nov. 5 “The ‘70s — Looking Back, Looking Forward” 
Nov. 25 “’70s Redux” 
Feb. 5 “The Fabulous ‘50s!” 
Mar. 3 “War and Peace — the ‘40s and ‘80s” 
Apr. 8 “From the Great Depression to the Digital Age — the ‘30s and the ‘90s”

All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. at ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Ave., and are free of charge.

Media Contact:
Katrina Montgomery
Editor Assistant