TABLE OF CONTENTS
Southern Methodist University Mustang Band collection
A Guide to the Collection
During the 1915-1916 academic year, H.B. Criswell, a well-known local musician and composer, directed SMU’s Philharmonic Orchestra and Band. Approximately fifty “special students,” meaning local youths not enrolled at SMU, were in the band by mid-September 1915, and the Dallas Morning News expressed hope that “regular students” would soon join. The band, an orchestra, and a choral group together formed the philharmonic society under Criswell.
By the fall of 1916, however, Criswell had left and the band boasted just eight members. Its first performance was at the SMU vs. Dallas University football game at Gardner Field (on the grounds of Fair Park). The yearbook for the 1916-1917 school year lists eleven members (three women and eight men) of a “Student Volunteer Band.” In 1917, Smith McCorkle, who directed the school’s orchestra, reorganized the band, raising its membership to seventeen. The next year, Paul Van Katwijk transformed the band into the Students Army Training Corps Band. The SATC Band disbanded after a short time. SMU went without a band until 1920, when “Sam Gobbett led the aggregation under Harold Hart Todd’s aegis.” By 1922, the band boasted forty members, half of whom were local high school students.
In 1923, a photograph of the band appeared in the Rotunda for the first time. Twenty band members are pictured therein. In 1924, when V. Cyrus Barcus succeeded Roy Ford as the band director, the band again had forty members. The student newspaper later referred to his directorship as a “regime-revolution.” Barcus introduced jazz, or “swing,” music to the band and dramatically increased the amount of touring the band did. By the 1931-32 school year, the band had grown to 51 members. Bob Goodrich, who took over from Barcus in 1933, implemented two innovations: the ‘band sweetheart,’ and the ‘Pigskin Revue,’ a musical variety show. Chosen for her “pretty face and form,” Dorothy Lee Taylor was the first ‘sweetheart.’ She marched with the drum major during game halftimes and accompanied the band on trips. This tradition only lasted through 1936. The “Pigskin Revue,” however, became a permanent fixture, a highlight of SMU’s Homecoming Week.
In 1936, the band moved away from playing the jazz music for which it had become nationally known. The yearbook for the 1936-37 school year observed, “Forced through University intervention to return to the orthodox activity of college bands, the Mustang aggregation found itself without its master showmen as the year began. Reorganizing under the direction of P. C. Conn, a noble effort was made to equal the fame attained by last years’ swingsters, who were classed by Grantland Rice as the ‘nation’s best.’ The annual ‘Pigskin Revue’ was successfully staged and, as spring approaches, will be taken on tour throughout the State. Lacking only the professional smoothness exhibited last year, the band is still the ‘pride of the Mustangs.’” This departure from jazz music was short-lived, however, and the “Mustang Swingsters” were back in business during the 1938-39 school year.
Frank Malone became the band director in 1937. Unlike the directors of the 1920s, who recruited high school students to join the band, Malone found himself tasked with tryouts and a process of elimination in order to trim the number of would-be band members down to 65 each year. The student newspaper claimed in 1939 that the Mustang Band was then “rated the top college swing band of the nation.” In 1942, Frank Malone left, taking sixteen men from the band with him to form an “Air Force Band.” Until his return in 1946, a series of “acting directors” led the Mustang Band. Unimpressed and uninspired by these temporary band leaders, members of the band petitioned the university for a “new and more capable” band director.
During World War II, women joined the band in significant numbers for the first time. Mary Jo Strother had been a member of the band during the 1923-24 and 1924-25 school years, and Anita King was in the band during the 1939-40 school year, but not until Virginia Lee Malone, a flute player, joined in 1941 did women begin maintaining a continuous presence in the band. Also during the war, the band was placed within the School of Music. From September 1948 to July 1958, Oakley Pittman directed the band. Though the band continued to perform at pep rallies and football games, Pittman made it more of a concert band. Indeed, during the last five years of Pittman’s tenure, the yearbooks identified the band as the “SMU Concert Band.” In 1956, however, the band was split into two divisions: a marching band, and a concert band. Pittmann directed both. That same year, the band moved its practices from McFarlin Auditorium to a new rehearsal hall in the basement of Perkins Gymnasium.
On July 1, 1958, Irving Dreibrodt replaced Oakley Pittman as the director of the Mustang Band, which then became independent from the School of Music. Pittman, however, remained the director of the Music School’s concert band. Under Dreibrodt, the band returned once again to the jazz music of the Barcus era. At the time of Dreibrodt’s hiring, Sterling F. Wheeler, SMU’s Vice President in Charge of Development and Public Relations, informed Dreibrodt that the school was adopting a males-only policy for the Mustang Band. Nevertheless, eleven women participated in the band during the 1958-59 school year. By the fall of 1959, the new policy was in place. The 1960 yearbook noted, “Any boy enrolled in the university may participate in the activities of the band.”
A few months after the June 1972 passage of Title IX, an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965 which prohibited sexual discrimination in any educational institution receiving federal funds, Dreibrodt announced that women would be allowed to join the band beginning in the fall of 1973. However, as of February 1977, no women had joined. The Women’s Interest Coalition and the Commission on the Status of Women at SMU sought to remedy the situation. This they achieved later that year when freshman saxophone player Rebecca Knight marched with the Mustang Band.
In 1983, following Dreibrodt’s September 1st retirement, Bob Brandenberger became the band’s director. When Brandenberger left in 1994, Claude White took over the directorship for a year. He was followed by David T. Kehler, who remained until 2005, when Don Hopkins became the band director
“Music Lovers to Hear Artists Soon,” SMU Times, September 18, 1915
Musical Society Planned for S.M.U.,” Dallas Morning News, September 12, 1915
“University Concert Opens Musical Season,” Dallas Morning News, September 15, 1915
“Second Rehearsal is Held,” Dallas Morning News, October 12, 1915
“Austin Man is Named Mustang Band Director,” Dallas Morning News, September 15, 1924
Jess Hassell, “Fame of Band Spread from Coast to Coast,” Semi-Weekly Campus, November 3, 1939
“Band Leader Named at SMU,” Dallas Morning News, August 31, 1948
“Mustang Band in New Hall,” Dallas Morning News, October 29, 1956
“2d Band Director Named in SMU’s Expanded Program,” Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1958
“Mustang Band to Go Coed in the fall of 1973,” Dallas Morning News, September 28, 1972
Maria Newman, “The girls not in the band,” Daily Campus, February 18, 1977
Kathleen Hast, “All-male band gets a female sax,” Dallas Morning News, September 10, 1977
Materials in the collection span the period from 1915 to 1994. These materials include a handwritten history of the band, letters, fliers, event programs, posters, band bulletins, newspaper clippings, news releases, brochures, Pigskin Revue programs and tickets, a scrapbook devoted to V. Cyrus Barcus, videocassettes, record albums, a compact disc, band member clothing (bowties, sashes, a beanie cap, a sweater, and a vest), and other memorabilia (including megaphones, a cow bell, a homecoming pin, and a blanket).
Access to Collection:
Collection is open for research use.
Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.
Southern Methodist University Mustang Band collection, Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University
Donation, Eddie J. Wagoner, October 2010.
Cy Barcus materials, Donation, Bette Barcus Carpenter, April 2013.
The items in this collection came from a variety of sources. Most of the Pigskin Revue programs were transferred from the Student Activities collection. Former band member Eddie Wagoner (SMU class of 1969) donated a box of clothing and mementos in 2010. And in 2013, Bette Barcus Carpenter, daughter of Cyrus Barcus, donated a scrapbook containing information about Barcus and his years leading the Mustang Band. These materials have been combined with other legacy materials to create this collection.
Dale Topham, May 2013.
Dale Topham, 2013-2014.
Ada Negraru, 2014.