Collections Treasures

The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at Urbana-Champaign was organized in 1994 with the transfer of the John Philip Sousa and Herbert L. Clarke personal papers, and other related special collections from University Bands to the University Library. The Center holds the world's single largest archives of original music compositions and arrangements by John Philip Sousa. The principle archival collections of the Center are the papers of John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), Herbert L. Clarke (1867-1945), former directors of the band at the University of Illinois A. Austin Harding (1880-1958), Mark Hindsley (1905-1999), Harry Begian (b. 1921), and University of Illinois alumnus and Sousa Band member Richard E. Kent (1899-1996). In addition the Center is responsible for unique collections of twentieth-century electronic and avant-garde music, and select ethno-musicological research papers from the faculty and staff of the University's School of Music.

As a unit of the University Archives, the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music provides professional collection-level management of its collections. It insures students, faculty, researchers and the general public free and open access to its collections and strives to provide the highest quality public service and educational programming possible. Interesting facts about Sousa and new digital images of the University of Illinois Concert Band's annual portraits, 1915-1992.

Current Exhibitions

Celebrating the Harding-Hindsley-Begian-Keene Band Legacy at the University of Illinois, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, September 9, 2013 – August 18, 2014.

The University of Illinois, founded in 1867 as one of the country’s first Land Grant Colleges, was the first of its kind to establish a regimental band in 1868. The University’s band program during the early twentieth century became the model for all other collegiate bands across America. Serving as Illinois’ first band director (1908-1948), A. Austin Harding played a major role in the development of special educational and performance band clinics, and for his tireless work earned the reputation of being the dean of America’s school band movement. Mark Hindsley, as Illinois’ second band director (1948-1970), became the commander of orchestral transcription practice for bands with his arrangements of Rimsky Korsakov’s Sheherazade, Liszt’s Preludes, and Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, and his works remained the standards of America’s band repertoire for decades. Harry Begian was the captain of one of the country’s first collegiate band conducting internship programs at the University of Illinois (1970-1984) which helped better prepare future band conductors, and his efforts became a model for other band conducting programs. James F. Keene as Illinois' fourth band director between 1985 and 2008 founded Illinois' unique commissioning initiative which sought out new music compositions for wind ensembles that continue to influence American band performance. This exhibit explores the special historical legacies of Illinois’ first four band directors and their influence on America’s band directors that followed in their footsteps.

Traveling America’s Early Highways: A Strothkamp Family Road Trip 1920-1930, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 30, 2013 – July 7, 2014.

Charles Strothkamp played clarinet with the John Philip Sousa Band between 1926 and 1932, and when he wasn’t performing with the band he took countless candid photographs of the band as they traveled from town to town on America’s bustling railroad network. During America’s roaring 1920s the allure of traveling to new exotic destinations by automobile on the country’s developing byways had captured the imagination of many urban adventurers, like the Strothkamp family, who sought escape from the forests of brick and concrete that surrounded their city-dwelling lives. Charles’ black and white travel photographs colorfully portray the exploits of his family’s many road trips through America.

A Musical Life: The Travels of Otto Mesloh, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014.

Like most musicians and music ensembles that toured throughout the United States at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Sousa Band traveled over 1,272,000 miles by railroad. Before the age of the inexpensive automobiles and the development of America’s interstate road system, reliable and efficient long-distance transportation between cities and states was only possible by rail. Train travel also had its downside which often included delays brought about by mechanical failures and accidents associated with collisions, derailments, locomotive boiler explosions, and bridge collapses. When Otto Mesloh performed with the Sousa Band between 1898 and 1899 he travelled extensively throughout the Northeast and Midwest, and his rail experiences were always positive. After leaving the band in 1899 Mesloh took a position as the lead cornetist with the Elite Musical Four and travelled extensively by train to perform numerous concerts in New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City. This exhibit briefly highlights Otto Mesloh’s career with the John Philip Sousa Band and the Elite Musical Four, and graphically describes the 1906 train wreck that nearly took his life.

How the Sousa Band Music Library Came to the University of Illinois, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, June 1, 2013 – June 2, 2014.

Victor August Herbert (1859-1924) was an American composer, cellist, and conductor who is most frequently remembered for his popular Broadway operettas, Babes in Toyland (1903) and Naughty Marietta (1910) and his work as the founder of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1914 to protect the copyright of compositions of its members which initially included Irving Berlin, Otto Harbach, James Weldon Johnson, Jerome Kern, and John Philip Sousa. When Herbert died in 1924 his extensive library of original and published music, which included works by Herbert and many other famous composers, was auctioned off for a fraction of its value. Sousa remarked in the article, “Sousa Will Leave His Immense Music Collection to Public Libraries” that appeared in Nashville’s Tennessean on July 26, 1924, “It was announced that… a bundle of scores of comic operas by Herbert went for $32. I can’t believe those were autographs of Herbert’s own compositions. The autograph original of the score of one of Victor Herbert’s operas ought to command a figure of at least $1,000.” This exhibit investigates how Sousa’s extensive library of original and published music came to the University of Illinois in 1932 and its continuing impact on today’s research and performance of early American wind band music.

The James Bond Theme: Music to Live, Die, and Love Another Day, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, April 11, 2013 – March 14, 2014.

Many film scholars have suggested that John Barry’s early Bond orchestrations established an entirely new music genre to portray the excitement and intrigue associated with the spy thrillers of the 1960s. However, the syncopated guitar riff that begins the “James Bond” music theme that was first introduced in 1962 for Dr. No., and the rich orchestral cadence of the infamous “007” tune that was launched in From Russia with Love in 1963 have remained the two quintessential melodies associated with all of the Bond movie sequels that followed between 1964 and 2012. Such prominent composers and performers as Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Marvin Hamlisch, Monty Norman, Duran Duran, Carly Simon, Nancy Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass have followed in Barry’s artistic footsteps, but few have surpassed his influence on the musical portrayal of Britain’s most recognized super spy. This exhibit explores the historical and musical roots of these two distinct movie themes, and illustrates through music, photographs, graphic art, and oral history interviews their lasting impact on the Bond movie legacy.

John Philip Sousa’s 1912 Victor Recording Sessions, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 27, 2012 – July 15, 2014.

Of the 1,770 commercial sound recordings that were made of Sousa’s civilian band between 1892 and 1932, only eight were conducted by the “March King.” Two additional recordings of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company Band playing “March of the Mitten Men” (later entitled “Power and Glory”) and “The Thunder” were also recorded with Sousa at the podium. While Sousa had a general aversion to most forms of mechanically reproduced music, he did not prohibit his band’s musicians from being recorded and many established reputations as recording artists and studio conductors. In addition, Sousa’s Band played a significant role in the rapid development of the Victor Talking Machine Company under the direction of Arthur Pryor. Pryor played solo trombone for the band and served as one of Sousa’s assistant conductors. This exhibit explores Pryor’s 1912 Victor recording sessions and his impact on America’s early twentieth-century audio recordings.

John Philip Sousa’s Jazz America, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, October 15, 2012 – October 7, 2013.

The June 30, 1925 headline of the Trenton Times proclaimed, “Jazz Always Here Says Bandmaster,” as the Sousa Band was about to premiere John Philip Sousa’s latest music fantasy, Jazz America. Sousa stated, “Like the poor, jazz has always been with us and always will be. The phase of it we are witnessing today will pass, but tomorrow some individual will give it a new label and it will drift along its merry way, a rose under another name, but smelling just as sweet.” This exhibit of music, photographs, and news clippings illustrates the interesting “love-hate” relationship that Sousa had with this uniquely American form of popular music and its impact on how he marketed his band’s concerts.


2012 On-Line Concert
This special telematic music performance brought together University faculty, musicians, archivists, and special collections curators as well as performing musicians from around the world to collaboratively create an innovative concert experience that takes the live performance beyond the walls of the traditional concert hall. This special online concert removed both time and physical barriers to connect musicians through the use of high-speed broadband connections to produce a real-time streamed audio-visual performance that can be freely viewed by anyone with internet access. This concert was created to celebrate the Morrill Act’s continuing impact on liberal and mechanical arts education in colleges and universities around the world.

2011 On-Line Concert
This special concert of improvised music featured a mélange of local musicians performing on a variety of traditional and new music instruments with the Sal-Mar Construction, built from the TTL logic boards of the ILLIAC II by Salvatore Martirano, Sergio Franco, and ILLIAC III designers Rich Borovec and James Divilbiss. The instrument, preserved at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, is believed to be the earliest interactive music synthesizer to combine the essential elements of human conversation and music improvisation into a continuous performance event, and this concert highlighted the unique nature of this early electro-acoustic instrument. Performers included Ken Beck on the Sal-Mar Construction, Dorothy Martirano on violin, Barry Morse on theremin, Jacob Barton on the utterbot, John Toenjes on computer synthesizer, Jason Finkelman on computer synthesizer and African instruments, and Jeff Zahos on percussion. This concert was sponsored by the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music in partnership with the University of Illinois' OCE-ATLAS.