Instrumental music was at first not cultivated at Juniata, since the institution was church-related. "Church prejudice against playing musical instruments, both in homes and in churches, was deep rooted, and their use would remain a vibrant issue as late as the 1920's. In fact, the first catalog in 1878 echoed this provincialism: 'We encourage our students to give their attention to vocal music in preference to instrumental.'"
Juniata had a nine-member orchestra in fall 1904, and, by 1913, a full-fledged orchestra. "As long as Peter Buys stayed around in those years (1912-19), the college had an orchestra of some merit. Trained at the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music and the Hague's Royal Conservatory, Dutch-born Buys, who had spent three years with John Philip Sousa, was Mount Union's bandmaster when discovered by Juniata. Buys would later win many honorary degrees and decorations and head the American Bandmasters Association. After his departure the orchestra had a checkered career until 1925, when it took a fresh lease on life."
"The orchestra, revived under Mrs. Mary Douthet-Desky, pupil of Leopold Goldowsky and Phillipe, in 1924. Dr. Norman J. Brumbaugh became the orchestra's oboist upon his 1925 hilltop return. N. J. Brumbaugh headed the chemistry department for many years and was a strong supporter of JC’s instrumental program (He invested $1,540 of his own money in the orchestra by 1928.)" Some music owned and signed by Brumbaugh was rediscovered in fall 2004 in the department archives. Karl Gilbert conducted the orchestra from 1927-37, and in 1930 his group began to consistently number in the forties. George Leidy Beyer served as a violin teacher. A photo of the 1927-28 Gilbert-led ensemble still hangs in Swigart Hall.
"Instruments were privately owned or donated until N.J. put the bite on President M.G. [Brumbaugh] in 1928 for college funds. M.G. came up with $900, justifying his outlay to the trustees by pointing out that the orchestra 'directs the interests of all students to the right kind of music. By the same token it discourages a liking for trashy jazz and dance music. ''Trashy jazz,' however, suffered little student neglect. A band in 1929, tagged Kappa Phi Psi, specialized in jazz music, and Klarinet Tom Knepp '31, J.C.'s answer to Rudy Vallee, led another oft-scheduled troupe of jazzists."
"A band of thirty pieces finally took hold, after several false starts, in the fall of 1935. Its members, in 1936 attired in Yale-blue sweaters, collegiate hats, and white trousers (coeds joined the ranks a year later), did more than goose-step and play at football games or pep rallies; they gave band concerts as well." Credit was not awarded to students for participation in musical groups until 1940.
A significant event in Juniata history occurred in April 1940, when renowned Hungarian composer and pianist Bela Bartok perform on the JC campus – his only college stop during this second American tour. Unfortunately the new Oller Hall was not quite finished, so the performance took place in the college gym. A display commemorating the Bartok visit is on display in the lobby of Rosenberger Auditorium.
Instrumental music declined on campus during the war years of 1943-1945. Mary Ruth Linton (1942-51; 1963-89; degrees from Juniata as well as Eastman; Beachley Distinguished Academic Service 1989) organized small orchestral ensembles, but there was no band. In 1945-46, Donald Johnson conducted a full orchestra that gave 3 concerts. Juniata somehow inherited some instruments from the Philadelphia Orchestra - a number of excellent French horns. It wasn’t until October 1946 that the band returned to the football field, led by Herman Scholl. A small but enthusiastic pep band performed at home basketball games.
"With October 1946 the familiar strains of Washington Post and the marked beat of the drum were heard on the athletic field for the first time since the war. Scholl's forty-five piece Juniata Band, however, though led by five snappy majorettes, marched without uniforms (they had gone up in flames in the '1630' fire (faculty club.)) Parents' Day next fall, though, saw the band newly accoutered in navy blue and gold."
From 1951-57 the band and orchestra programs were led by Jack Brammer, followed by Robert Currier 1957-1961; a Mr. John Miller in fall 1961; a visiting conductor from Altoona High School (spring 1962), and, starting in fall 1962, Richard Hishman. It is believed that a music major, trombonist Jim Martin, organized a concert band sometime in the '60s. In addition, a Mr. M. Douglas Fleschman (1966-69?) and Dr. Robert King (1969-73?) (the conductor of the Altoona Symphony before Gerald Feintuch), are noted in the history.
"on September 19th,  nine hundred students and faculty began to move books. from the old library to the new library. The band provided peppy music." (p.344)
"Ibrook Tower…appointed [to the instrumental music position] in 1974, has worked an overnight miracle in resurrecting an orchestra and a band." (p.380). According to Tower, when he arrived at Juniata in 1974, “there was no organized band. An ad hoc group went to the Division III Football Championship Game, the Stagg Bowl. The instruments weren't properly taken care of during that trip and came back quite damaged.
The first rehearsals in 1974 started with twelve instrumentalists in what is now the Early Childhood Education Center in the basement of Lesher Hall. But quickly, the band grew in numbers and volume to the point that residents of Lesher began to complain.
By the spring term (the College was on quarters at that time, not semesters), the band was moved to the Ellis Hall Ballroom. This was not a great rehearsal space, due to poor acoustics, schedule conflicts, the jukebox in the snack bar, lack of security in the instrumental storage area, and distance from the music library, offices, and practice rooms in Swigart Hall.
In 1979, members of the band returned to campus a week before the start of classes—Juniata's first Band Camp. Also, the band began the tradition of presenting an annual Parents' Weekend Concert. In 1981, the Juniata College Band Front (silks or twirling flags and rifles) and Juniata Majorettes were chartered. That same year, the Juniata College Band began to present marching half-time shows at all home football games. Originally, Dr. Tower was against the idea. He said he would agree to it if students could recruit eighty marching band members. They were successful. The band wore navy blue blazers, white shirts, gray trousers, and white shoes at football games and concerts.
In 1983, rifles were dropped from the Band Front. Blue jeans replaced gray trousers at football games. Later, in 1986, Juniata's faculty voted to offer Juniata College Band and Juniata College Concert Choir as one-semester-hour-per-year courses.
In the late 1980s, there was serious consideration of building dedicated rehearsal space on to Swigart or Oller Hall, but the cost of a proper facility was considered too high. As interest in instrumental music increased, Tower was given permission to bring in specialized adjunct faculty. An important ally in acquiring these faculty was Eleanor Lawrence, flutist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and daughter of Dr. John Baker, chair of Juniata's Board of Trustees. First appointed were Diane Gold-Toulson to teach flute and John Mitchell to teach guitar. Eventually, there were high and low brass teachers, as well as a percussion teacher and a string teacher.
Douglas Bakenhus, bassoonist with the San Antonio Symphony and former drum major at The University of Texas, directed the band when Tower was on sabbatical in 1989-90. He went on to become the band director at Bluffton College in Ohio and then at Texas Lutheran University. He is now the music director of the Austin Philharmonic and the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra.
In 1990, members of the band began to buy their own blue and gold striped rugby shirts to be worn with blue jeans and white shoes for athletic engagements. Credit for Juniata College Band and Juniata College Concert Choir doubled to one hour per semester in 1991.
Tower (D.M.A., Cincinnati College-Conservatory; Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, 1980) led these groups until he left in 1995. Diane Bargiel (M.M., Michigan State) took over the wind symphony of about 30 members in 1995. The band no longer performed at football games, but continued concertizing with three concert performances each year. In March of 1996, Juniata College hosted the first High School Honors Band, which invited the best high school instrumentalists in New England to play with the wind symphony. The Honors Band has become an annual tradition; however, in 2005 Honors Band took a one year sabbatical due to the construction of the Halbritter Center and the renovation of Oller Hall.
A student-run athletic pep band, The Screaming Eagles, was formed in 1998 by Juniata students and existed until approximately 2006. The group performed at football and basketball games on campus. On April 26, 1998, the college held a Presidential Gala for the retirement of beloved President Robert Neff. The highlight of the musical ceremony was a joint performance by the wind symphony and members of the choral groups of a commissioned work entitled A Letter from Giocondo. The work was composed by Paul Halley, pianist and composer for the Paul Winter Consort.
In 2002, James Latten (Ph.D., Penn State) succeeded Bargiel as the conductor of the wind symphony. In subsequent years the wind symphony has grown to 70+ members, performing concerts in the fall and spring semesters, and in spring 2006 performed (in conjunction with the high school Honors Band guests) the world premiere of Pennsylvania native composer Todd Goodman’s River of Sorrows, based on a recent book of the same name by area author Dennis McIlnay. The successful Honors Band program was retooled in favor of Featured Instrument Weekends, with national and international guest soloists such as Dale Underwood, saxophone. In fall 2008 guest conductor/composer Dr. Frank Ticheli conducted a number of his works on the program. By 2009 interest in wind music allowed for the creation of a second band, the Concert Band.
In the winter of 2003, Latten resurrected the jazz ensemble program, which has given concerts in Oller Hall, outdoor campus concerts, performances at the Blair County Ballpark, and swing dance performances. In addition, a percussion ensemble of upwards of 15 members has become a significant part of the instrumental offerings, performing various pieces for mallet ensemble and traditional and contemporary percussion ensembles.
In fall 2003 the college string ensemble, “Sinfonia,” led by Dr. Rosalyn Troiano (D.M.A., Eastman), joined forces with selected wind symphony members to present the first (since 1947, we believe) full orchestral performance made up of Juniata students. Conducted by Dr. Latten, the ensemble performed a J.C. Bach overture. The combined ensemble has continued since, becoming a full fledged orchestra of nearly 60 members by 2007-2008, performing many standard orchestral works and, in spring 2010, appearing in concert with the Altoona Symphony Orchestra. The string program celebrated its 100th anniversary in fall 2004.
With the completion of the new Suzanne von Liebig Theatre and the opening of the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts (including Oller Hall/Rosenberger Auditorium), most music department ensembles moved their home base out of Ellis into Rosenberger in fall 2005. The program has grown to involve nearly 100 students in wind symphony, 35 (plus up to 20 winds and percussion) in full orchestra, and 16 percussionists...representing a 587% increase in participation since 2002. From these ensembles, honors ensembles (brass quintet, woodwind quintet, saxophone quartet, string quartet) were formed. The bands celebrated their 75th anniversary with a reunion weekend during homecoming 2010, and a similar gathering took place during fall 2015's 80th anniversary.
The wind symphony toured in spring 2015, performing full ensemble and chamber repertoire in the Lancaster and Harrisburg regions, with a final performance at the Forum Auditorium of the State Capitol complex in Harrisburg. In spring 2017, the ensemble traveled to Altoona's Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and performed the world premiere of an antiphonal piece written for them and their three Honors chamber ensembles, entitled "Bridging The Divide" by Dr. Timothy Melbinger.
Contributions to this article by James Latten, Tara (Fitzsimmons) Yorke '00, Ibrook Tower, Miriam Wetzel '52, Joe Beyer '50, and Dean Buckwalter '65.
All text in quotations taken from either:
- Kaylor, E.C. (1976). Truth sets free: Juniata Independent College in Pennsylvania, founded by the brethren, 1876 : a centennial history
- Kaylor, E.C. (2001). Juniata College: Uncommon vision, uncommon loyalty. Huntingdon, PA: Juniata College Press. Available through the Juniata College Bookstore.
Instrumental Music Teachers at Juniata:
- Anthony, Audrey, adjunct piano, 1923-
- Axworthy, Suzanne, adjunct instructor of _____, 1957-1961
- Bargiel, Diane, wind symphony, woodwinds, 1995-2002
- Beery, William, adjunct jazz, retired 1909??
- Berlin, Janet, adjunct clarinet, 2006-present
- Bookhammer, Evelyn, adjunct cello, 2002-present
- Brammer, Jack, band & orchestra, 1951-1957
- Brazelle, Richard, 1989-
- Butte, Jody, adjunct bassoon, 2008-present
- Buys, Peter, orchestra, 1915-1919
- Calvert, Francine, adjunct strings
- Coleman, Donna, department chair, piano, 1990-1994
- Costa, Robyn, adjunct oboe, 2011-2013
- Currier, Robert, 1957-1961
- Dekker, Ron, adjunct brass, 1980s
- Delvecchio, Michal, adjunct flute, 1996-2008
- Dingo, Matt, adjunct jazz improvisation, 2008-2014
- Dorsey, Justin, adjunct bass, 2016-
- Douthett-Deskey, Mary, orchestra, 1924-
- Fahrney, Pete, assistant band director, 1957-
- Field, Harry, orchestra, 1931-
- Firer, Benjamin, adjunct orchestra and low brass, 2013-2016
- Fleshman, M. Douglas, band, 1966-1969
- Gilbert, Karl, orchestra, 1927-1931, 1933-1937
- Gold - Toulson, Diane, adjunct flute, piano, 1975-1996; 2009-2012
- Grier, Sylvia, 1982-
- Heiman, Laurene, adjunct piano, 1935-
- Herrera, Cathy, adjunct flute, 2012-present
- Hishman, Richard, 1962-1966
- Howard, Diane Cooper, strings, 1989-1990
- Huhn, Kevin, adjunct bass, 2012-13
- Humphreys, Dorothy, 1952-53
- Hunsberger, Mark, adjunct percussion, 2015
- Jaeger, Marie, 1953-57
- Johnson, Donald, organ, 1944-1971
- Jones, Arthur, orchestra, 1935-
- Jones, Lucy Rice, 1937-
- Jones, S. Turner, band, 1937-<1945
- Karosas, Emily, adjunct violin/viola, 2015-2017
- King, Robert, orchestra/strings, adviser to student band, 1969-1974
- Kirkbride, Dorothy, piano, 1928-
- Knepp, Tom, adjunct jazz, ca. 1950-
- Kovalchik, John, adjunct low brass, 2017-
- Kroeker, Barry, adjunct oboe, 2017-
- Lafferty-Gilbert, Margaret, piano, 1929; 1933-37
- Latten, James, band, orchestra, percussion, 2002-
- Latten, James, adjunct percussion, 1997-2000
- Lewis, David, adjunct woodwinds, 2002-2008
- Lin, Hannah, adjunct violin/viola, 2016-2020
- Linton, Mary Ruth, piano, harpsichord, department chair, 1963-1989
- Lloyd, Patricia, adjunct piano, 1982-
- Loeffler, Marcia, adjunct, 1962-
- Loewen, Phil, adjunct saxophone and jazz improvisation, 2015-
- Lynch, William, music theory, 1932
- Lyon, George, quartet, 1896-1898
- Martisius, Milda, adjunct strings, 2004-2006
- Mazak, Grant, guitar, 1981
- McGuire, Ed, guitar, 1978-1981
- McKinstry, Herb, adjunct brass, 1987-present
- Merrel, William, 1957-
- Miller, John, 1961-62
- Mitchell, John, guitar, 1977-1978
- Monti, John, 1944-45
- Mullen, Stan, adjunct guitar, 1984-present
- Murray, Terry, piano/organ, 1977-ca.1996?
- Ochiai, Katsuko, adjunct piano, 1987-2005
- O'Brien, Rebekah, adjunct orchestra and horn, 2010-2012; 2016-
- Parrish, Dorothy (Domonkos), piano, 1938-
- Pfotenhauer, Mary, 1953-57
- Priester, David, adjunct low brass, 1980s
- Probert, Richard, 1967-68
- Ritz, Susan, 1982-
- Saunders, Ian, adjunct bass, 2010-2012
- Scafidi, Cathy, adjunct piano, 2005-
- Schettig, Bruce, guitar, 1989-
- Scholl, Herman, orchestra, 1942-
- Sheppard, Matthew, adjunct orchestra, 2012-2013
- Shuty, Jennifer, adjunct saxophone, 2008-
- Sims, Kevin, adjunct percussion, 2015-
- Smith, Christi, adjunct horn, 2012-2013
- Smith, Margaret, adjunct strings
- Stevens, Edythe, piano, 1917-
- Thomas, Marion, piano, 1951-57
- Tomer, Ofir, adjunct violin/viola, orchestra assistant, 2009-2010
- Tower, Ibrook, band, marching band, woodwinds, 1974-1995
- Troiano, Rosalyn, adjunct strings/string ensemble, 2002-2004
- Trudeau, Debbie, adjunct strings/orchestra assistant, 2006-2009
- Wampler, Flora, piano, 1915-1917
- White, Donna Oneta, violin, orchestra 1927-
- Yoder, M. Dan, adjunct jazz ensemble (2010-2015), jazz improvisation (2010-2011), saxophone (2011-2015)