Episode 27: A.R. McAllister, Joliet Township High School, Joliet, IL, Part I

A.R. McAllister, left; John Philip Sousa, right.

Referred to as the “Band Pioneer,” A.R. McAllister would help to promote the high school band movement in the early 1900’s.

Part one of A.R. McAllister takes us through his early years up to the National High School Band contests in the 1930s.

My sources for this episode included scholarly writings from Philip Hash, Illinois State University, and Jeffry L. Kluball, Jeff Kluball, Darton College. Additionally, information was taken from resources such as School Musician Magazine, the Joliet Herald News, the Joliet Spectator, The Joliet Township High School Band Alumni Association, and other documents housed at Joliet Township High School - Central Campus.

FULL BIO from the Joliet Township High School Band Alumni Association:

In 1913, A.R. McAllister, a manual arts instructor who played the cornet, was asked to organize a band for Joliet Township High School. Mr. McAllister, who grew up on a farm in Jackson Township, bought a cornet at age 14 with profits he earned from selling his pig at the Will County Fair. He studied music under James H. Ward, director of Ward's Boy Band in Joliet. Prior to directing the JT band, McAllister organized the Trinity Girl's Band in 1905 and performed with local ensembles, including the Dellwood Park Band and Joliet Steelworkers Industrial Band.

Under Mr. McAllister's leadership, the band won state championships from 1924-26 and national championships from 1926-28. In their hometown, the band received permanent possession of the trophy in 1928 and was praised by John Philip Sousa (see photo below). The band was exempt to play at the 1929 contest in Denver, but performed as an exhibition group. In 1931, the band regained the national title.

In 1936, McAllister lead his young musicians through a week of nine performances at Radio City Music Hall where the band performed an Easter show with the Rockettes, playing for a total of 160,000 people. The band played for draftees, and was known as "the minute men" because they were always ready - day or night to perform for soldiers traveling through Joliet.

Mr. McAllister became a nationally recognized leader of the school band movement and was known as "the father of the high school band program." McAllister helped organize the National School Band Association in 1926. He was elected vice-president the same year before serving as president for 14 years. On Sept. 30, 1944, McAllister died at age 63.