Professor Harding and the Illinois Bands During WWI

Thursday, April 2, 2015 to Monday, August 3, 2015
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, 236 Harding Band Bldg., 1103 South Sixth Street, Champaign

As war enveloped much of Western Europe in 1914 and 1915 our country struggled to justify its involvement in this conflict and our national leaders overwhelmingly favored peaceful negotiation as the only logical way to end Europe’s war. However by 1916 Germany’s military had devastated large portions of Belgium and France, and presented a serious threat to Great Britain as well as commercial shipping across the north Atlantic. While fear of a German invasion spawned discussions on the possible need to close the University of Illinois or at least discontinue courses that did not provide relevant training to support a military build-up if needed, the University’s band program under the direction of A. Austin Harding continued to provide the campus and the local community with musical artistry, patriotic fervor, and moral support during the darkest days of WWI. This exhibit investigates the challenges that Harding faced as many of his band’s members enlisted in the army and navy in 1917 after America entered the war, and highlights the role that Harding and his bands played to support that nation’s war effort.

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