In 1868, the University of Illinois band became the first Land Grant Institution music ensemble of its type, one year after its founding as the Illinois Industrial University. In 1870, 16 of the bandsmen petitioned the University Board for music instruction to help enhance the ensemble’s performance so that it could serve as University’s battalion band for campus commencements, building dedications, parades and society events as well as various sporting events. The 60-member band eventually performed at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition on June 16, 1893, the same time the John Philip Sousa Military Band gave its first performances at the same World’s Fair.
In 1908, A. Austin Harding became the first official director of the University of Illinois Band and began a life-long professional relationship with “The March King,” which eventually led to the creation of America’s School Band Movement in 1920. Since its inception, America’s public school band movement and the country’s collegiate band education system has been continually guided by the University of Illinois Band and its first four directors—A. Austin Harding, Mark Hindsley, Harry Begian and James Keene.
Join the Marching Illini in a special musical tribute during the Illinois vs. Ohio State football game half-time show to honor the students, faculty, and legacy of the University of Illinois Band and its influence on American School Band Movement.