Sousa Archives Completes the Archival Processing of the 505th Air Force Band of the Midwest Records

505th Air Force Band of the Midwest standing on a Boeing B-52D bomber, ca. 1960s (top left), 505th Concert Band sitting in front of a Douglas DC-3, October, 1941 (top right), Chanute Field band, ca. 1918 (bottom left), and
505th Air Force Band marching, 1991 (bottom right).

The students enrolled in this summer’s arrangement and description class completed the archival arrangement and description of the 505th Air Force Band of the Midwest Records last week.  The 505th Air Force Band of the Midwest, a multi-ensemble military band, was constituted September 24, 1941 and formally activated on October 1, 1941 as the Air Force Band, Chanute Field, Illinois (later Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois). The band traces its origin to an unofficial post band founded at Chanute in 1918. The 505th band was first designated as the 5th Army Air Forces Band on August 10, 1942 and was re-designated multiple times under different names until finally becoming known as the 505th Air Force Band of the Midwest on September 26, 1947. Operating for nearly 50 years, the unit was disbanded as part of a reduction in the number of Air Force bands and ahead of the formal closure of the Chanute Air Force Base in 1993.

The 505th Air Force Band began as a 45-member unit, and was later downsized to 35 members. The band’s ensembles consisted of a concert/symphonic band, a ceremonial band, a marching band, and a big band-style jazz band, The Pacesetters (initially known as The Highknights). The band’s smaller chamber ensembles included the Lincoln Land Brass Quintet (or brass ensemble), a woodwind quintet and a clarinet quartet. The 505th also featured several different pop/rock bands during the 1960s and 70s including Horizon, Thyme, and Solo Flight. Well-known throughout the Midwest, the band in its various configurations and ensembles frequently gave concerts and participated in community festivals, parades, school assemblies, educational programs throughout Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, as well as performing for tours in Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky. The band and its ensembles produced a number of albums the most notable of which was a recording featuring The Pacesetters performing with Dizzy Gillespie during the 1983 Wisconsin Fond du Lac Jazz Festival in Fond. The final performance of 505th Band took place during the Champaign County Freedom Celebration that was held on June 27, 1991 under the direction of Commander Allen C. Sierichs. The records of the 505th Air Force Band of the Midwest were transferred to the Chanute Air Museum in 1998 following the closure of the base, and were later transferred to the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music in December of 2015 in preparation for the air museum’s closure in early 2016.

The records consist of scrapbooks; color and black and white photographic prints, negatives, slides and contact sheets; correspondence and administrative records; newspaper clippings; concert programs; awards; and sound recordings documenting the general operation and performances of the 505th Air Force Band’s different music ensembles between 1941 and 1991, and the band’s reunion concert in 1993. More information about this interesting music collection and its content can be accessed through the collection finding aid at [].

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