The South Holland Municipal Band
By Jack Daniel Chavez Jr.
The South Holland Municipal Band (SHMB) as we know it today, came into existence in 1943, in an effort to raise the spirits of the south Chicago suburb amidst the conflict of the second world war. However the history of the band in South Holland does not begin there.
The earliest public record of a South Holland band is from 1907. The band was simply known as "The South Holland Concert Band". That band's motivation for playing was closely related to that of the current band: community spirit and good taste in music. While the South Holland Concert Band had great enthusiasm, they had little organizational skills. Along with the concert band, South Holland would see a fair share of bands forming and disbanding throughout the years preceding 1943.
Under the management of Joe Van Schouwen Sr., and the direction of Haskel Harr, the SHMB was
formed. Joe was a South Holland barber who enjoyed playing the tuba. He had enrolled his 9 year old son in drum classes with Haskel
Harr, a nationally known drummer, teacher, and publisher, who had just retired as an Army band director. Mr. Harr directed the band for 24 years; from 1943-1967. When Joe died in 1977, his son became manager. He once recalled, "We used to play our concerts downtown on farm trucks. We'd put three trucks together on South Park Avenue, string up a few lights and play for an hour or more, five or six times each summer." He remembered in 1945, on the day the war ended, how his father got the band together and with the boy scouts and American Legion members they led a parade down South Park Avenue.
In 1967 Lyle Hopkins began directing the band. He was born in South Dakota and traveled around the country performing. He settled in South Holland to teach and directed the band for over 20 years. When his wife became ill, he stepped aside and Jack Wonnell became the director. Jack had been band director at Thornton Fractional High School (North and South). Jack said, "I really wanted to direct this band. We don't do anything complicated because we only rehearse once before a concert. We perform half-time show music - songs from Broadway that people recognize. Two-thirds of the band are quite experienced and the others are still learning. But we're not playing Orchestra Hall concerts. We play for families at a cookout in the park for fun. They love the sing alongs." Jack passed away a couple of years ago.
In the early 1990s, Jack traded the baton for his clarinet, and he played in the band while Al
Bilyeu, a former high school band director, became the director. Al conducted the band for 6 years, followed by Darell Dalton, who took the reins in 1998 and continues as our director today. Darrell teaches general music and directs several elementary school bands in Matteson school district 162. The longevity of leadership proved helpful in keeping the band together during the early years. Along with steady leadership, South Holland itself played a major role in making the SHMB an institution synonymous with South Holland. Besides playing many civic affairs, the band gained notoriety by playing at homecoming festivities for the troops in 1946, '47 and '48. The music is chosen by the directors for performances, and often touches upon patriotic themes. The band also participated in yearly parades down South Park Ave. much the same way they do today, however playing conditions have changed significantly. In the early years many of the concerts were held on improvised stages or on occasion on the backs of trucks. Despite the lack of a true "home" for concerts, the SHMB still drew big crowds, thus solidifying the need for a permanent platform to play on.
The dedication of the directors and players of the SHMB has played the most important role in the staying power of the band. While the band is now financed by the town of South Holland, this was not the case in the beginning. It was the enthusiasm and desire to perform that kept the band in tact though all the years. The same holds true today. While yes, the band members of today get paid a small amount to perform, their enthusiasm comes from enriching the lives of the citizens of South Holland through music, as well as enriching their own lives. The SHMB promotes the values and educational needs of the town that supports it; South Holland.
In conjunction with its fiftieth season of music, 1993, the SHMB entered a new era. Previously to the fiftieth season the band could be seen in the traditional black and white attire of a concert band. The town and the band wanted to take a more unique approach and decided on a different uniform. They now wear red and white which coincides with the town's colors.
The band's mission today is much the same as it was in 1943; "To enhance the cultural landscape of the town and to promote the strength and excellence of South Holland."
The band rehearses on Thursday evenings at the Faith Family Future Center. They perform in the
Memorial Day parade down South Park Avenue; at Veterans Park on Thursday evenings and on the 4th of July; at The South Holland Home; and at Paarlberg Farm on Labor Day. The SHMB is proud of its history and tradition. We are confident in our future as well, and we ask you, whether as a spectator or a musician desiring to audition, to come out and enjoy the artistic beauty of the
South Holland Municipal Band