Band History - Part 1

[Beginnings] [1950-1970]


1929 Band
The 1929 Wooster High School Band.
This was a collection of students put together primarily under the leadership of fellow students. It was of a kind that had been gathered for many years. The 1929 Observer Annual (from which this picture is taken) states, "The band was reorganized this year for the purpose of giving instruction to its members and of keeping up the spirit of the school at all athletic meets."

Wally FranksIn 1931, Wallace Franks was hired as an Instrumental Music instructor for the school. He recalls, "How well I remember the fall of 1931, when I announced (over the P.A. system) that Wooster High School was to have a marching and concert band comprised of boys and girls from grades seven through twelve. The uniforms would be white duck trousers or white skirt, black bow tie with a white shirt and, of course, black shoes and socks. Some fifty aspiring musicians answered the call, and for the first football game the Wooster High School Band marched, and made an 'M' for Millersburg and a 'W' for Wooster."

This was the beginning of band in the school day at Wooster High School. Unlike the past, the band rehearsed during school hours and met for credit. Indeed, the face of music education in Wooster was beginning to change. Wallace Franks, "WHS' First Band Director", taught here for another nineteen years. His directorship lead the band through many successful concerts and contests. Wooster's instrumental music program became a model for other programs around the state.

1932 Band
The 1932 Wooster High School Band.
From the 1932 Observer Annual: "Wooster High School's band has experienced quite a revival this year. Under the capable direction of Mr. Wallace Franks and its trombone- playing president, Clyde Hanna, the oraganization has developed into a bigger and better unit than ever before. Included in [the band this year] was a decided feminine element, something that has been sadly lacking for some time in the ranks of that body.

1937 Band The 1937 Wooster High School Band

The bands in the 1930's were able to raise funds on several occasions to upgrade to new uniforms. This was made possible by donations received from numerous public performances and help from the Band Mothers' Club. Clarinetist Howard Smith (Class of 1936) recalls, "I remember our first 'real' uniforms - blue and gold capes, trousers and hats. I can tell you, we were proud!"


P. Grainger

Percy Grainger

The Wooster High School Bands of the 1940's were known for their outstanding concert performances. On more than one occasion, internationally known composer and conductor, Percy Aldridge Grainger was a special guest, conducting the Wooster High Band on such works as Lincolnshire Posy, Children's March, and Irish Tune from County Derry. These concerts were an example of the fine music that Wooster students were making, a tradition of excellence that continues today.

Wally & Bones "Wally" Franks directs the crowd in the Alma Mater down at Maurer Field. This picture, taken in the fall of 1949 was the twentieth season at the venerable old stadium. It was Franks' final season with the Marching Band.

1950 Band

The 1950 Wooster High School Band

Wallace Franks Retires

The tradition of excellence was well established by Franks as he retired in the spring of 1950. The band was consistently receiving high honors in district and state contests, and soloists under his instruction were excelling both locally and nationally.

The 1950 General Annual payed tribute to the music teacher, "To all who know him and have reason to associate with him, 'Wally' is one of the finest men who could be known. As a music director, Mr. Franks is one of the best and best-known in the state of Ohio."

Wally Retires


Wallace Franks laid a firm foundation for a solid instrumental music program at Wooster High School. After his retirement there came several directors who spent a relativelty short period of time in the position. However, each upheld a high standard for music learning at WHS.

Richard Shilling took the reins from 1950 to 1952. From 1952 to 1954 George Knickles continued the fine tradition of musicianship and excellent performance of the Wooster High School Band. In 1954 Walter Kehrs joined the staff and was, like the previous two directors, only the school's band director for two years. His tenure at WHS ended in 1956.

Richard Shilling

George Nickles

Walter Kehrs





Jack Emig

Jack Emig

A new era for the Wooster High School Band began with the arrival of Jack Emig as director in 1956. Emig expanded the program into the elementaries with flutaphones in 4th grade and beginning band instruments in 5th grade. Director at WHS for eight years, Emig helped hundreds of students in Wooster to enjoy and produce music through participation in band.

By 1957, under Emig's direction, the 110 member Wooster High School Marching Band sported brand-new blue and gold uniforms (as pictured above in the new gymnasium). Emig utilized his training at Ohio State University to usher in a new era of "precision marching". The band began venturing to distant performance venues and received much aclaim. An invitation to perform in New York City in the 1959 Lions' Club International Convention Parade was accepted within months of a halftime performance at a Cleveland Browns football game.


Bill Shephard

Program Continues To Grow

In 1964 Bill Shepherd became the new Band Director at Wooster High School. During his tenure the schedule for band class moved from three days of in-school rehearsal to five days a week.

In addition to the change in schedule, Shepherd was faced with growing numbers of instrumental music students. In response to this, he instituted a process of dividing the Marching Band after football season into two separate groups for concert performances. Thus was the beginning of the Concert Band and the Symphonic Band; the two ensembles have been in existence ever since.

Bill Shepherd - 1964 to 1969

Looking Back

For the Alumni reunion in 1993, Shepherd recalled, "It has been a long time since my years at Wooster, but I still measure communities and bands against those times. I remember 'my band students' as the finest I've ever worked with. We were in the process of building a band program based on the work of several fine directors. The recordings of the band still sound terrific and stand as a tribute to the quality of the band. Wooster and the Wooster Band hold a dear spot in my heart like no other place."

Lloyd Ringley, an Eastman Music School and Vandercook graduate, was hired in 1967 and became the director of the newly formed Concert Band. Shephard conducted the Symphonic Band. With this new system in place, the bands continued to excel at State Contests and received superior ratings for their performances. Lloyd Ringley

Lloyd Ringley

In October of 1969, Bill Shepherd accepted a position at Findlay College. Ringley finished the year as director of the Marching and Symphonic Bands while Ed Schattsneider, already on staff with duties at the Junior High, directed the Concert Band.
With the departure of Bill Shepherd, yet another import decade for the Wooster Bands was about to begin. Great experiences were awaiting band students of the 70s ... t-bone

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