As the oldest band in the PAC-12 Conference, the Oregon State University Marching Band has been an institution in the OSU/Corvallis Community since its formation in 1890, however the band’s history begins before even that.
The OSU Band Program has a long history with much to be proud of. Much of this history has been guided by three outstanding band directors. During the first 100 years of college football at OSU, the football team had 25 head football coaches. During this same period of time, the band program has had four director’s of bands. “Cap” Beard, Delbert Moore, Ted Mesang, and Jim Douglass. Other than perhaps the choir, no other organization on campus can measure their first 100 years in similar eras.
Music has been a part of the Oregon State University curriculum since 1871, when the first reference was made to it in the college course catalog. A Cadet Band was formed in 1891, one of the first ensembles on campus. A Department of Music was first listed in the 1895-96 catalog, and a conservatory style School of Music was organized in 1908 as a self-supporting department within the college.
The origins of OSU’s proud history go back to November of 1890 when a brass band was organized on campus. Then in 1893, when the president of the college, John M. Bloss, promoted the football team, he also gave the Cadet Band the go-ahead to march at football games.
The first outstanding band director was “Cap” Beard, who among other things took cornet lessons from the legendary Herbert L Clark, took his band on state tours starting in 1905, and started the Oregon State High School Band Contest back in 1924.
Ted Mesang, hired as director of bands in 1949, was also a prolific composer. Mesang guided the band program and made it a strong musical organization with extremely involved student leadership. Mesang passed away after an evening marching band rehearsal.
The third outstanding band director at Oregon State was James Douglass, who introduced Oregon State bands more prominently on the national and international stages. In his time Douglass brought both the concert and marching bands overseas and led the program in many prominent performances.
After Douglass’ retirement, Lewis Norfleet was hired to bring a fresh look and sound to the marching band. The band next fell under the leadership of Brad Townsend, who continued to modernize the OSUMB and grew the membership of the band to unprecedented numbers. During Townsend’s tenure, Chris Chapman took over the Director of Bands position at OSU and returned the OSU Wind Ensemble to national prominence.
Dr. Dana Biggs took over for Brad Townsend in the 2013 season as the new Associate Director of Bands/ Director of Athletic Bands. We now welcome OSU alumnus Olin Hannum as the seventh Director of Athletic Bands at Oregon State University!
Not only have we been blessed with outstanding band directors, but we have our own share of notables. Some are more noteworthy because of their accomplishments as students and some because of their later accomplishments. For example, George Bruns from Sandy Oregon was a composer for Disney movies and TV. More recently, Bill Chisholm started the One More Time Around Again Marching Band. A more expansive OSU Bands history can be found on the Oregon State University Campus.