Former OSU Director of Bands James Douglass conducting at the 125th Anniversary Gala Concert on October 9, 2016.

Three events happened in 1891 that indelibly changed the sonic landscape of America: Carnegie Hall – first known simply as Music Hall – had its grand opening; Thomas Edison patented the transmission of radio waves; and the Oregon State University Band was founded. 125 years after organizing at what was then called Oregon Agricultural College, the OSU band is the elder statesman of the Pac-12 conference and one of the largest collegiate band programs on the west coast.

In a celebration of the past – with a distinct nod towards the future yet to come – hundreds of OSU band alumni and friends of the program converged in Corvallis on October 9, 2016 for a celebratory concert at The LaSells Stewart Center on the OSU campus. To a packed house, the OSU Wind Ensemble and The Spirit and Sound of OSU (a.k.a. the OSU Marching Band) delivered a thoughtfully curated program filled with nostalgic favorites, forgotten gems and wind-band classics in homage to the countless thousands of OSU band alums from a long and proud history.

The  trifecta of Dr. Chris Chapman (director of bands), Olin Hannum (director of athletic bands) and Dr. Jason Gossett (assistant director of marching band) were joined by distinguished guest conductors from around the country, each whose special contributions during their time in Corvallis helped propel the OSU band forward into the enviable position it occupies today.

The OSU Wind Ensemble took the stage first with a program of compositions having special association with the band program. After a traditional season opening “Star Spangled Banner” with Chapman at the helm, longtime OSU director of bands James Douglass took the stage for a spirited reading of Fucik’s “Florentiner March.” Marc Dickey, former associate director of bands, lead the group in an arrangement of Morten Lauridsen’s haunting “O Magnum Mysterium.” Yu-Chou Chen’s “Dance Festival” was ably navigated by former associate director of bands Rodney Winther, followed by the rarely heard “Oregon Trail March,” a work penned by Ted Mesang (director of bands 1947-1967) and conducted by Steve Matthes ’74. Dave Becker, the final guest conductor of the first half and former director of the OSU Wind Ensemble, paid homage to OSU’s agricultural roots with a reading of Robert Jager’s classic “Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann” – a lighthearted romp through variants on a tune otherwise known as “The Happy Farmer.” Chapman returned to close the half by leading the band and audience in Homer Maris’ timeless Carry Me Back to OSU.

Following the interval, The Spirit and Sound of OSU took not only the stage but almost the entirely of the hall in a rare indoor concert performance of the 265-member strong marching band. Director Olin Hannum was joined by guest conductors Megan Hansen, Robyn Chapman, Bill Chisolm, Mary Bengel and Brad Townsend, along with assistant director Jason Gossett and 2016-2017 drum majors Calvin Kocher, Sam Nicacio and Sage Gustafson in a 12 song set of favorites from the extensive OSU Marching Band library.

To view an archived video recording of the 125th Anniversary Gala Concert, click here.

Story and photo by Zachary C. Person