The University of Chicago Centennial CataloguesThe University of Chicago FacultyLife on the QuadsThe University and the CityThe Presidents of the University
Life on the Quads
A Centennial View of
the Student Experience at the
University of Chicago
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University Band, 1900

University Band, 1900. Under the leadership and inspiration of President Harper, the University of Chicago Band was formed in 1898 and soon became a highly popular and visible group. Harper, who was given the status of honorary member, is standing to the right of the drum holding his cornet.




The Eskimo chorus

The Eskimo chorus line from The Naughty Nineties, Blackfriars, 1919.

The Performing Arts

Music came early to the University. In October 1892, the first two student music groups - the University Chorus and the Glee and Mandolin Club - were formed. Later that year they were joined by the University Choir, and in 1893 by the Serenade Club, the University Quartette, an Octette, and a fifteen-piece orchestra. The decade was capped by the formation of the marching band, organized in 1898 under the aegis of President Harper, an enthusiastic amateur cornet player. The band quickly became one of the most popular groups on campus and could be found at most major events such as football games.

Small, informal clubs like the Banjo Quintette, the Women's Harpsichord Club, and Women's Banjo Club also emerged as complements to the major musical organizations. Like the Glee Club, Chorus, and Choir, they gave performances and fulfilled the universal objective of all campus musical groups by offering a release for performers and audience alike from the rigors of academic life. At the same lime, campus music groups expanded the student body's appreciation for music and enhanced the musical talent of the musicians and singers.

In 1920, when Walter Reckless called a meeting of musicians to form a new orchestra, the popularity of student music groups had reached a peak not only in the number of participants but also in the range of music offered. Reckless succeeded in putting together a quality, all-student orchestra of about thirty members in its first year. After its initial performance at the Settlement Night Vaudeville, the University Orchestra quickly became one of the leaders in student music.

In 1931, the University created an academic Department of Music, which among other duties assumed supervision of student music groups. Under the direction of Carl Bricken, the department's chair, students formed the highly respected seventy-five piece University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In addition, the student choir groups and the newly organized University Singers thrived within this setting. The notable exception to this pattern was the band, which deteriorated quickly after the demise of intercollegiate football on campus. Re-established in 1955, the band represented the revival of a longstanding University musical tradition.

A new wave of interest in student music arose in the 1960s and continues today. The University Symphony Orchestra gives quarterly public performances and has toured Europe. A score of smaller ensembles, including the Collegium Musicum and the Motet Choir, perform regularly in the new Goodspeed Recital Hall and elsewhere on campus. Student music continues to thrive on the Quadrangles.

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