As the Blue Lions celebrated the season with their annual holiday band concert, Saturday’s performance also marked the official commemoration of the 100th anniversary of instrumental music at Washington High School.
In the winter of 1921, the newly-formed Washington High School Orchestra, under the direction of Mr. Karl J. Kay, took the stage at the Glee Club Christmas Concert, marking the first organized performance of instrumental music in WHS history.
“Though the instrumentation and uniforms have changed,” Matt Stanley, director of bands said, “the passion and musicianship of the Blue Lions has remained unwavering since the first note played in 1921.”
The band commemorated their Centennial by playing the Washington Alma Mater as well as recognizing the band alumni in attendance that day.
“As we celebrate this Centennial with a performance from the combined Concert and Symphonic Bands,” said Trevor Patton, director of the Washington Alumni Association, during the recognition ceremony, “these student-musicians today are continuing the legacy established a century ago by the WHS Orchestra, as well as our proud Alumni throughout the past 100 years.”
In addition to a performance from the combined WHS bands, the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade bands also performed a selection of holiday hits, showcasing the talent that will lead into the next century of instrumental music at Washington Court House City Schools.
The band is not done celebrating Centennials, however, as preparations for commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Blue Lion Marching Band in 2024 have already begun. More details regarding this commemoration will be communicated in the near future by the district.
The following is the first known written history of instrumental music at Washington High School, penned by the students themselves in the 1923 Sunburst:
One morning early in the fall of 1921, the writer of this article met a member of his physics class carrying a trumpet case. The student in question paused for a moment explaining that he would be absent from school that day owing to an engagement to play with a band in a neighboring town. A short conversation followed in which it developed that there were numerous students of varying degrees of musical ability playing a variety of instruments and enrolled in no one particular musical organization of Washington High School.
This was the first of two occurrences leading to the organization of Washington High School Orchestra. The second occurrence was the visit of the teachers to the meeting of the Central Ohio Teachers’ Association at Dayton, during the same Autumn.
Immediately upon returning from this meeting, after a conference with our Principal, Mr. Thompson, it was decided to make an effort to bring all students interested in orchestral instruments into one organization to be known as the Washington High School Orchestra, having for its purpose the encouragement of the development of musical talent, the increase of interest in school activities and the creation of an organization capable of functioning musically at the various public gatherings and entertainments held under the auspices of the high school.
From the beginning the orchestra proved itself composed of a group of young people who were very congenial in taste and behavior, and an examination of the deportment records in high school showed that they were all persons of a high standard of conduct in school. So, while the original membership was based upon musical ability only, it was decided to make high deportment and reasonably satisfactory scholarship a requirement for membership in seeking new recruits.
We feel that this has been a very wise provision, for it ensures harmony of conduct as well as of sound in our gatherings, and makes it easier for the organization to secure from the school authorities any reasonable concession necessary in working up and fulfilling our various engagements. In fact, in this connection it may be said that there is no reason why an organization such as a high school orchestra, should not be on the same general status as the members of the athletic squads where scholarship and deportment are an invariable requirement for participation in the various activities.
At the time of our organization we hoped to be able to play in public by the end of the school year, but to our surprise, we found ourselves giving our initial performance at the time of the Christmas Glee Club Concert, 1921…
We are hoping that we have aroused enough enthusiasm and support in the school to cause our organization to become, like athletics, a permanent department of student activity…
We wish to take this opportunity to express our great appreciation for all encouragement which we have received, both in school and in the city at large. We shall try earnestly to merit a continuation of the support which has been so generously given us…
Yours for a bigger and better future,
THE WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL ORCHESTRA