Bands Alumni

Louis Henry Burch Louis Henry Burch

Louis Henry Burch

The beginning events of the Western Illinois State Normal School were not in the distant past as the school organized its first band. The normal school opened its doors to students on September 23, 1902, and it was on November 18, 1904 that Louis H. Burch, manual arts professor, called to order the first recorded meeting of the Western Illinois State Normal School Band (Secretaries Book of the Western Illinois State Normal School Band Organization (Secretaries Book), p. 4).

According to the 1906 Board of Trustees Report Burch graduated from Brookfield High School in New York in 1886 and moved to Chicago Heights, becoming principal of the school there in 1887 (p. 64). In 1896, while still employed at Chicago Heights, Burch graduated from the Cook Country Normal School where he did special work in shop and printing office (p. 64). In 1899, he took a new job as an eighth grade teacher in Chicago and remained there for two years. In 1901, he was invited to teach at the Chicago Normal School as a Critic Teacher.

In Burch’s second year at the Chicago Normal School (private school), the Western Illinois State Normal School was searching for a new manual arts teacher. In the 1903 Board of Trustees Report the Committee on Teachers listed seven applicants for the position, none of which were Burch (p. 173). The report read: “Your committee desires to report that F.H. Irons, later Director of Manual Training in the Laboratory School of the University of Chicago is the choice for Manual Training in the Normal School” (p. 174).

The next report regarding the manual arts position came from the January 2, 1904 Board of Trustees Report, which stated:

Mr. F.H. Irons, having declined the position of Teacher of Manual Training on account of the salary, Mr. L.H. Burch, member of the faculty of the Chicago Normal School, was appointed to fill the vacancy at a salary of $1,200 for ten calendar months. Mr. Burch commenced his work October 14th [1903], and has made commendable progress in equipping that department and starting the work in Manual Training. Mr. Burch was asked to consider that his ten months would include his services for the summer term without additional compensation. (p. 179)

There is no record found of Burch’s involvement with bands or music before his employment at Western Illinois State Normal School. Once the bands were established, he is listed as a baritone and cornet player in the school yearbook’s membership lists, which indicates his ability to play instruments. As seen below, his organizational skills and knowledge of instruments and band music reveals some experience with bands in his past.

The students at the Western Illinois State Normal School described his physical appearance and personality in a brief description submitted in The Sequel (1906):

Mr. Burch has the honor of being the shortest gentleman on the faculty, but this in nowise impairs his power of giving lengthy speeches on the rearing of other people’s children. His most prominent physical feature is the peninsula on his forehead” (Faculty, The, p. 136-7).

Burch’s influence on student leadership, membership criteria, and instrumentation was influential from the early stages of the band’s existence. Just four days after the November 18th meeting, Burch had a committee report the band’s Constitution and Bylaws. The verbiage throughout the document places the responsibility for band operations on the students. The articles in the document define roles of student leadership as follows:

The officers of this organization shall consist of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Librarian, and such other officers as the organization may see fit to elect.

Section two. It shall be the duty of the president to preside at all regular meetings, to enforce all rules and regulations of the organization, to indorse all orders to be drawn upon the treasury, to appoint committees, unless otherwise provided for, and to…perform such as commonly devolve upon the presiding officers.

Section three. It shall be the duty of the vice-president during the absence of the president, to perform such duties as are subject to that office. If the vice president be absent, any member of the organization may be called to the chair.

Section four. It shall be the duty of the secretary, to keep all minutes of the organization and he shall have in this possession a list of all the members. He shall sign all orders on the treasury and present all bills to the organization. He shall have charge of books and papers belonging to the organization, except those of the treasurer and librarian.

Section five. It shall be the duty of the treasurer to have charge of all moneys, bills, reports and receipts belonging to the organization. He shall pay all orders on the treasury when properly signed by the president and secretary. Upon a week’s notice he shall make a full report of the finances of the organization. Before turning over all moneys and papers to his successor, he shall report all moneys received and expensed during his term of office. By the order of the organization he shall deposit in the bank, all surplus funds in his possession. The organization shall decide as to what shall be done with the moneys and papers at the end of the school year.

Section six. It shall be the duty of the librarian to have charge of all music of the organization and to stand responsible for the same. (Secretaries Notes, 1904, p. 2)

Through additional verbiage in the band constitution written under Burch’s jurisdiction, membership criteria was clearly defined as follows: “Any student of the Western Illinois State Normal School desiring to become a member of this organization may do so by securing a two-thirds majority vote of all the members, provided he be in good standing, carrying fifteen (15) hours work and will sign this Constitution and By-laws” (Secretaries Notes, 1904, p. 3).