A. R. McAllister

A. R. McAllister (left) and John Philip Sousa at Joliet Union Station, 1928.

Archie Raymond McAllister was born July 28. 1883 in humble surroundings on the family farm in Jackson Township eight miles from Elwood. Illinois. Archie. born to a "Scotch Dad and a Yankee Mother" (Smith. 1930). was the eldest of four children. The McAllister family did not often travel by horseback or by walking to EIwood or nearby Jo1iet due to time limitations caused by farming responsibilities.

From his early childhood Archie became very fond of music. He was very inquisitive as to how musical instruments produced their sounds. He would spend much of his time creating or copying musical instruments with which to play and experiment. When farm responsibilities would release him from his assigned chores. Archie would utilize this time by "making corn-stalk fiddles and playing on elder flutes" (Smith, 1930.p. 7).

Learning to play the cornet was one of young McAllister's personal ambitions. At the age of 12, he asked his father for a cornet (IT Band, 1962). The McAllister farm's financial situation did not allow him the outright purchase of a cornet. Instead. a piglet was given to Archie by his father. Archie. then only fourteen. raised the piglet on a bottle to enter it in the upcoming Will County Fair. McAllister won first prize and used his winnings and money from selling the pig to purchase a cornet from 1. W. Pepper. Thus, his musical career began.

Archie Raymond McAllister was a music education phenomenon. Raised on a small family farm without formal music instruction, McAllister developed the Joliet Township High School Band from its inception into a nationally acclaimed champion high school band. McAllister's stringent high musical and disciplinary standards positively influenced thousands of his former students and peers alike. His impact also facilitated and promoted the development of band programs and professional band leadership associations throughout the nation.

The Joliet Township High School Band, first taught in a woodworking shop with nail kegs for chairs, became the epitome of band organization and discipline under McAllister's instruction. The Joliet Band earned numerous state and national titles. The group traveled extensively and impressed audiences from New York to California. Many instrumental organizations, including the United States military bands, tried to emulate the Joliet instrumental program.

On September 29, 1944, the man who earned the title "father of the school band movement in America" (JT Band, 19'62), Archie Raymond McAllister, passed away in the afternoon hours at St. Joseph's hospital. His wife, Clara; his daughter, Mrs. Henning Hanson; and two of his sons, Forres and Leslie were at his bedside when death came. His passIng shocked the band world.


by Jeffrey Lynn Kluball, A Thesis Submitted to the Troy State University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Education Specialist

Troy, Alabama August, 1990