By: Joan Hampton-Porter
Curator History Museum on the Square
There was a long history of music education in the schools once designated for Black Springﬁeldians. The crown jewel of the music program was the New Lincoln band (1946-1955). The development of the band was built on a strong tradition of music education.
Singing was added to the curriculum in the 1860s-1870s. There was an elementary school band at Old Lincoln (1920s) and New Lincoln (1930s) under the direction of Adah Fulbright. Notable musical band alumni were John Thomas “Bebop” Brown and the Hardin Brothers. In 1922, there was daily music instruction. The district music supervisor gave one singing class a week. The boys’ glee club class included music notation and terminology. There was an 8-student orchestra. In 1945-1946, Florence Sample directed a forty-member a cappella choir.
William Foster (1946-1947) directed the ﬁrst high school band. The school board rejected his request for classical sheet music for the choir, so he bought it himself. After a strong performance, he was allowed to choose what he deemed appropriate.
In 1947, Gerald Brooks was hired to teach French, English, and band. He arranged for the students to rent instruments. He convinced the parents to form a Band Booster Club to fund the uniforms. They raised money through concerts and rafﬂes. At one 1949 concert, they rafﬂed a $180 Maytag washer, a $120 Zenith radio, a $39.50 electric mixer, and two turkeys.
The striking black and gold uniforms were so attractive that the Springﬁeld High School (now Central High School) band unsuccessfully requested ones just like them. New Lincoln Band performed and competed all over the area. Homer Boyd, drummer and Drum Major, stated that some of the local parades stopped having a “Best Band” category because Lincoln always won. Boyd is nationally known for his music, having been a member of the Philharmonics. They were the ﬁrst Black singing group to be regulars on a nationwide television program.
For more information:
showmemo.org/collection/lincoln-high-school-drum-head/ This site celebrates Missouri’s 200th anniversary.
digitalarchive.thelibrary.org/digital/collection/lincolnschool This site documents local Black education.
1948 New Lincoln Band marching on Central Street
A hat and bass drum are in the History Museum on the Square’s collection.