The Early Years
After the fall semester of 1945, Miss Benton left LCHS, and Mrs. Mary McDonald Watson assumed the directorship of the Band starting January 1946. She quickly reorganized the band program, creating a concert band, which gave its first performance on February 14, 1946. Her efforts in rounding up support for the fledgling program in the form of instruments and uniforms resulted in the concert band (then known as the Senior Band) growing into a true symphonic band rather than simply a marching band playing concert music. In its second year of existence, the 40-member Senior Band placed three students in the Alabama All-State Band--two which claimed first chair on their instrument. The following year, the band entered a concert competition for the first time, earning unanimous superior ratings at the 1948 District Competition. After the 1948 year, Mrs. Watson resigned, but we still remember her contributions to the Auburn High Band through the annual giving of the Watson Award to the outstanding sophomore member of the Honors Band.
Fred Mann was director of the Bands from 1948 until 1950, when he was replaced by Paul H. Stewart, who served until 1953. Mr. Stewart resigned the August before the 1953-54 school year started, forcing LCHS to scramble to find another director at the last minute. Alabama Polytechnic Institute graduate student Bob Lewis took over the band for fall semester of that year, and was succeeded in January 1954 by George Corradino, a Florida State music graduate who had previously been director of the 610th Air Force Band in Panama City, Florida. Like Mrs. Watson a decade before, Mr. Corradino restructured the band, adding a jazz band--the Blue Notes--in 1955, and leading the Marching Band to the top award at the Auburn University Band Clinic. He originated the tradition of the Supper Concerts in 1956, and laid the foundation of the modern AHS Band, priming the band for a master architect that would build the band into the world-class organization that it is today -- Mr. Tommy Goff.
Though the earliest instrumental music classes at Auburn High date back to 1892, there was no band at AHS until the 1930s. In 1935, a group of 17 Auburn High students formed a band to perform at the Auburn-Opelika football game, and marched the first high school halftime show in East Alabama. The overwhelming success of this band led to the formation of an official marching band in 1936, thus beginning the illustrious history of the Auburn High School Band program. The band was directed by Lawrence Barnett, and consisted of 26 students, all male. Mr. Barnett continued to serve as LCHS Band director until March 1944, when he was called to California to enter War Industry. Alabama Polytechnic Institute history professor Dr. Paul Irvine served as Interim Band Director for the remainder of the 1943-44 year, and Betty Benton was appointed as Mr. Barnett's permanent replacement in the Fall of that year.
The Goff Years
In the fall of 1956, a young band director by the name of Tommy Goff came to Auburn High School, and the modern era of the AHS Band was born. In his first year at AHS, the band scored perfect at every competition, and made its first trip to the state band festival in Tuscaloosa. However, in 1957, Mr. Goff was placed on active duty in the Army, and the band was temporarily taken over by Jim Nettles. The following year Mr. Goff returned, and the band continued its success of the previous two years, once again leading the Band to perfect scores. The band continued its winning ways in subsequent years, and in 1961, the band was invited to march in the Inaugural Parade of then-incoming President John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, due to a mix-up in the Alabama Democratic Party, the band was unable to attend, but the message sent by the invitation was clear. The Auburn High School Band was well on its way to becoming nationally recognized.
By 1963, the band had captured the Alabama state records for most consecutive ones at district and state competition, and was recognized as having more ones in its history than any other Alabama band had ever had. But they were not through yet. Throughout the 1960's and into the 1970's the band kept racking up a perfect score in district and state competitions every year. It became a common occurrence to see the Band at an NFL football game, or playing with the Auburn University Band at a college game. The band program grew such that by the early 1960s a second concert band had to be added. In 1961 once of the greatest traditions of the AHS Band began, that of Band Camp at Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, GA. In 1972, a group of students approached Mr. Goff with a proposition to form a new class at Auburn High, and Laboratory Experiences in Instrumental Music was founded, to be better known in the future as the Lab Band, a Jazz ensemble. The fledgling Lab Band was named one of the top ten high school jazz bands in the U.S. in 1974, and cut a record with members of Doc Severensen's band in New Orleans. In the 1970s, the concert band continued its swath through all competitions, only having received twos from four judges since 1957 (The band has received no score less than a one since). The Symphonic Band was twice invited to the Music Educators' National Conference in the 1970s, and the Marching Band was among the top 10 bands in the nation in producing McDonald's All-American Band members, the top honor a marching band member can receive. In 1976, the Concert Band made its first trip to state competition and became the first "second" band to receive a superior rating, and became the first to receive a perfect rating in 1980. In 1981 the Band decided to take a break from its quarter-century domination of state band competition and start going to out-of-state competitions instead.
In the 1980s, the band continued its run, winning first place awards and best in class awards at competitions in Gatlinburg, Knoxville, Daytona Beach, Nashville, and Orlando, winning many contests multiple times. The Lab Band also won most of its competitions, and the marching band remained at its high level, still playing at Auburn University football games, including the nationally televised Auburn-Texas game in 1988. In 1984, Mr. Goff took a year off on sabbatical, leaving the reigns of the band in the hands of Everett Johnson, the newly hired assistant band director. The Lab Band made several trips to Europe winning contests there each time. However, the highlight of the 1980s (and in fact of the entire band program) was the awarding to the band in 1988 of the John Phillip Sousa Foundation's Sudler Flag of Honor, the top award that can be received by a high school band. There is no award that is any greater than the Sudler Flag to a high school band, and upon winning it, the band received congratulations from mayors, state representatives and senators, dignitaries from musical organizations, United States Representatives and Senators, the Governor, and President Ronald Reagan. No band in Alabama has won the award before or since.
Having reached the pinnacle of what a band director can do, Mr. Goff retired in 1988, finishing his 32 years with a overall Superior-Excellent-Good-Fair-Poor record of 220-4-0-0-0.
Mr. Tommy Goff, Director of the Auburn High School Band from 1956 to 1988, passed away peacefully on September 25, 2008. Everyone in the AHS Band “Family” was saddened by this, but it was also an opportunity for many of his friends, associates, and former students to joyfully look back and reflect on the great influence this extraordinary man had on so many lives.
Mr. Goff was responsible for starting the Band on its rise to national prominence in the late 1950’s, and during his 33 years as Director established an unmatched record of excellence, both in the Band’s performances at state, regional, and national music festivals, and in the individual accomplishments of his students, who many years dominated the Alabama All-State Band. Many of his students have gone on to highly-successful careers as professional musicians and music educators. Many, many more of his students credit him with being one of the most important influences in their lives. Tommy Goff was truly one of the most inspiring, unique, and outstanding individuals most of us will ever know, and the Auburn High School Band “Family” will never forget him.
- Everett Johnson, AHS Assistant Band Director, 1983 to 2005
The Logan Years
Upon Mr. Goff's departure, the band was once again taken over by Mr. Johnson, who led the band to more of the same amazing achievements while the search for a new director progressed. In 1989, Dr. Russell Logan, then Director of Bands at Victoria High School in Victoria, Texas, was hired to be the new band director. Under Dr. Logan, the band entered the '90s still keeping up its winning ways with victories at several competitions in Orlando and Gatlinburg. The Symphonic Band was the featured band at the Southeastern USA Concert Band Clinic in 1993, and performed in the Alabama Music Educators Convention conference in 1995, 1999, 2003, & 2013. In 1996, the band received one of its highest honors as the Honors Band was the first high school band ever invited to the College Band Directors National Association/National Band Association Southern Division Conference--besting some 40 of the top bands from Virginia to Texas in a taped audition.
In 1995, anticipating growth of the band program, the Symphonic Band was renamed the Honors Band and the Concert Band was renamed the Symphonic Band. By 1997, this growth had arrived and forced the band to cease the tradition of Band Camp at Pine Mountain, as the band had outgrown the Large Group Camp at FDR State Park. Fortunately, many of the great traditions of Band Camp lived on at subsequent Band Camps on the campus of Auburn High and at Chewacla State Park. Growth had its benefits, though--in 1997, a third concert band was added, and designated the Concert Band. Also in 1997, the Marching Band made its first trip overseas, with a performance in the Lord Mayor of Westminister's New Years Parade in London, England. The Marching Band also performed at halftime for Auburn University football games in 1996 and 1999, and was invited to the 1994 Gubernatorial Inaugural Parade. In 2001, the Marching Band returned to Europe for the La Grande Parade de Paris in Paris, France, and, in 2005, the combined concert bands performed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in commemoration of the end of World War II.
The continuing rapid growth of the band program resulted in the creation of a fourth concert band for a single year in 2000-01, before returning to three concert bands the following fall. In 2003, the 9th grade moved from Auburn High to Auburn Junior High School, and the AHS Band shifted back to two concert bands again, with AJHS ninth-graders remaining members of the Marching Band. The band has grown from its original 26 students to over 200 and continues to grow. The band still produces the highest number of All-State students proportionally in the state, as well as hundreds of solo and ensemble medals in the past few years. In the past few years, band members have been sent to Interlochen, Tanglewood, and Eastman, been principal players in the National High School Honor Band, and have included the nation's top high school percussionist, the state's best flutist, percussionist, baritone saxophonist, Eb clarinet player, piccolo player, bass clarinetist, and tuba player. During Dr. Logan's years, the band performed for the Alabama Music Educators Association, Southeastern United States Concert Band Clinic and the Southern Division of the College Bandmasters Association.
Dr. Logan retired from Auburn High in July of 2013 following many more years of success. He currently serves as Director of Bands at Huntington College in Montgomery, AL
The Modern Era & Present
Following the retirement of Dr. Logan, the band programs of Auburn City School have seen continued success and an expansion of their competitive efforts & programs under the direction of Mr. Rob Cothran (2013-2017) and now Mrs. Deanna Marshall (2017-present). Over the past few years, the ACS Bands have continued the production of record numbers of Middle School & High School All-State students, the selection of several US Army All-American Marching Band members, and the addition of new classes at AHS to serve to new and diverse musical interests of the students. The AHS Band program now boasts a very active competitive schedule between the AHS Marching Band in the Fall and the AHS Winter Colorguard & AHS Indoor Drumline in the Spring, including several Grand Champion honors for the AHSMB. AHS is also now home to a chapter of National Music Honor Society, Tri-M, which honors scholarship, musicianship, and service.
"That was the best performance I have ever heard given by a high school band"
- Dr. Frank B. Wickes, former President of the American Bandmasters Association, and Director of Bands, Louisiana State University, on the Honors Band's performance at the 1996 College Band Directors' National Association Convention
"This is the finest performance by an Alabama Band that I have heard in my 36 continuous years of teaching and adjudication in Alabama. I have judged all over the United States this spring, including Texas, California, and all over the Midwest and the East, and this is the best band I've heard."
- Dr. John Long, past President of the American Bandmasters Association and former Director of Bands at Troy State University, on the band's performance at the World Music Showcase in Orlando
"The Auburn High School Band is and has been as long as I can remember one of the top high school bands in the United States."
- Dr. John Long, former President of the American Bandmasters Association, on the band at the 2001 District VI Festival.
"The past accomplishments of the Auburn High School Band, on the concert stage in district and state contest, and the accomplishments of individual students at the All-State Band Festival, have set a high standard of performance for which all high school bands in Alabama aspire to achieve."
- Dr. Ted Galloway, former President of the Alabama Bandmasters Association on the band.