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From Cadet Bands to the Department of Music
Like courses in Basic Design and Drawing, Music courses formed an integral part of the institution’s curriculum from the 1890’s. Of course, in those early years and throughout the proud history of UConn, the rich extra-curricular tradition of marching bands, glee clubs, orchestras, and other ensembles also formed a vital part of the heritage of the institution, and a vital source of its outreach to the broader community, region, and nation. The Music Department was officially formed in 1931. Its first Head was Professor Herbert A. France, who composed <i>UConn Husky<i/> the beloved fight song sung by proud Huskies to this day.
Original homes of the Music Department
The earliest known building associated with Music activities on campus stood on the present site of Whitney Hall, across from the Great Lawn between Rt. 195 and Beach and Gulley Halls. It was known as “Valentine House,” or “Music House.”
The next building to become a ‘hallowed hall’ for Music classes and performances was known as Mechanics Hall, which still stands near the Storrs Congregational Church. This building housed Music classes, rehearsals, and concerts from the time of the Department’s official creation in the College of Arts in 1931, until the Department’s move in 1959 to the newly constructed fine arts campus in the building now known as the Drama/Music Building.
Herbert France appointed first full-time Professor of Music
Herbert France was appointed first full-time Professor of Music in 1942. He had been appointed to teach music by President McCracken in 1931. His appointment as a Professor of Music marked a culmination of a long, proud tradition of Music instruction at the institution dating to the 1880s.
WW II GIs return home to “Siberia”
The return of thousands of GIs from WWII battlefields created tremendous changes in university life throughout the country. Perhaps the most dramatic change in Storrs took place when the South Campus witnessed the hasty construction of a number of temporary, military barracks-like structures designed to accommodate returning vets and the academic classes whose enrollments were dramatically heightened by their presence. The Art and the Drama Departments were housed in these buildings, which were known, collectively, as “Siberia.”
University Concert Band formed
The University Concert Band, with members selected from all University bands, was formed. Today’s University of Connecticut Marching Band (UCMB), successor to the Football Band of 1948 pictured here, traces its roots to the Connecticut Agricultural Band of cadets, formed in 1904. By 1948, the Football Band was already well known for the creatively choreographed halftime shows, still a hallmark of today’s UCMB.
President Charles McCracken appointed Walter Ihrke Head of Music Department
Fine Arts Festival an annual event during the 1950s
The Fine Arts Festival was an annual event on campus beginning in 1953. It signaled that a newly enlivened atmosphere for campus fine arts activities had been generated by the addition to the faculty of new leaders in the arts and by the construction of the new Student Union Building and, later, the Jorgensen Auditorium. Such robust growth of activity in the arts propelled the University toward the official founding of the School of Fine Arts in 1961.
Fight song published
“UConn Husky” was written by Herbert France and first published in the second edition (1954) of “UConn Songs.” Huskies of today know at least the version for band.
Both first (1940) and second (1954) editions include a notworthy foreword by President Jorgensen.
Ihrke Leads University Convocation Committee, Initiates a new Arts Series
Like the Fine Arts Festival before it, the newly appointed University Convocation Committee’s Arts Series was a welcomed sign of an increased interest in fine arts activities on campus. It was also the precursor to the many fine series offered today by the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, as well as yet another sign that a School of Fine Arts was in UConn’s future. The strong leadership and vision of Walter Ihrke at this juncture represented a vital and necessary counterpart and reinforcement to those of President Jorgensen. Ihrke was a significant transitional figure between the initiatives of President Jorgensen, and those of President Homer Babbidge, Jr. who would soon assume the Presidency of the University.
Jorgensen Auditorium opened
A modern, spacious and well-equipped hall with outstanding acoustics for musical and dramatic performances of all kinds, the newly created Auditorium was initially known as the “University Auditorium.” Beneath the Auditorium is a comfortably spacious art gallery.