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Wind bands at ASU strive to promote personal musical growth within a collective environment. The students share in this commitment, aspiring to the highest possible standards of musical excellence and maximizing their own trajectory by setting personal goals for the productive use of ensemble rehearsal time. Balancing the needs of the community with those of the individual, the ensembles study and perform a range of wind band repertory on campus and throughout the Valley.
The wind band program in the Herberger Institute School of Music at Arizona State University honors its rich history while reflecting the “state of the art” through dynamic and innovative performances. The wind bands at ASU have performed multiple times at national conventions of the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), the American Bandmaster’s Association (ABA), the Music Educators’ National Conference (MENC), and at the Midwest International Clinic.
An important aspect of the wind band program at ASU is the commissioning of new works by the world’s leading composers. ASU bands have premiered the works of composers such as John Mackey, Frank Ticheli, Steven Bryant, William Bolcom, Chen Yi, Jennifer Higdon, Robert Rodriguez, Jonathan Newman, Scott McAllister, Martha Mooke, James DeMars, Jody Rockmaker, Michael Schelle, and many others.
Ensembles commonly define “community engagement” as giving public concerts from a stage. This phenomenon is a recent one, however. History demonstrates, for the most part, making music has always been an interactive, participatory activity. To that end, the ASU bands in the Herberger Institute School of Music regularly venture beyond the campus and embark on activities that truly embed our music making in the community. We visit schools and teach children through our art. We offer informal concerts for hospitals, shelters and community events. We perform for retirement communities and small arts series throughout the Valley. Not only do we invite patrons to visit us in ASU concert halls, but we also look forward to venturing into the community and coming to you.
The history of the bands at Arizona State University dates back to 1915 when founding director Lillian Williams organized a band for the purpose of training prospective teachers in instrumental music. Band activity was suspended with the onset of WWI and reinstated in 1929. Ten years later, private instrumental instruction was added to the band program; subsequently, activity was again suspended during WWII. In 1945, Miles A. Dresskell founded the first band department, which, under the leadership of his successor, Felix E. McKernan, quickly grew to include three instructors and nearly one hundred students.
From 1945 through the 1980s, the ASU “Sun Devil” Bands, along with the university, continued to grow in size and quality, achieving a position of national and international prominence by the last decade of the 20th century.
The bands’ current leadership of Gary W. Hill, director of bands, James G. Hudson, director of athletic bands, and Jason Caslor, associate director of bands and orchestras, continues to build on the superb efforts of those who preceded them.
Lillian Williams, 1915–17
J. Paul Jones, 1929–31
Carl G. Hoyer, 1931–38
Robert G. Lyon, 1938–43
Miles A. Dresskell, 1945–46
Felix E. McKernan, 1946–52
Charles D. Bowers, 1948–50 (associate)
E. Joseph Scrafford, 1950–56 (associate)
Harold C. Hines, 1952–66
Ronald A. Holloway, 1957–63 (associate)
Ronald K. Fuller, 1963–68 (associate)
William H. Hill, 1966–69
Kenneth O. Snapp, 1970–74
Robert W. Miller, 1970–73 (associate)
Eugene D. Anderson, 1973–74 (associate)
Richard E. “Doc” Strange, 1974–99 (Director of Bands Emeritus)
Robert C. “Coach” Fleming, 1974–2002 (Associate Director of Bands Emeritus)
Martin Province, 2002–2007 (associate)
Wayne Bailey, 2007-2015 (associate)