Once Upon a Time

Quincy High School Band at 100: Rich legacy continues

Legendary Quincy High School music director Paul Morrison posed for this 1927 photo. The theater and parking lot at Quincy Junior High School are named after him. | Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County
By MELISSA DeVERGER
Posted: Aug. 11, 2019 12:01 am

Part 3 of 3

 

In 1930, the Quincy High School Band attended the National High School Band contest, where 870 bands participated. New uniforms were again purchased, which were still being worn in 1940. The uniforms, costing $1,500, consisted of a navy coat with Sam Brown belts with the boys supplying their own trousers.

On April 5, 1930, the 80-piece band traveled to Springfield for the Class A division of the contest. The band qualified for the state contest on April 24 to 26, where it placed second in marching band and qualified to represent the state at the national contest.

The band attended the national contest in Flint, Mich., on May 23 to 25, where it did not qualify but received honorable mention.

The band continued to improve and went on to win in national contests. In 1933, the high school band attended the national band contest in Cleveland where it placed in the first group. In 1934, the band attended the national band contest, again in Flint, placing in the second group. Throughout its 100-year history, the Quincy High School band continues to shine on the national level.

Paul Morrison was involved in music throughout his career. For more than 10 years, he was a member of the committee for the Illinois All-State Orchestra at the University of Illinois. Morrison was the third president of the Illinois School Band Association and was guest of honor at the Sterling Music Festival in 1949. Also in 1949, Morrison was awarded the Arian medal by the Mid-West Band Clinic as outstanding band director in the Midwest. The American Legion awarded him its medal of excellence and citation at the Washington Park ceremonies, and the Future Teachers Club of Quincy High voted him one of three teachers having been most helpful to students.

In 1950, the Adams County Music Educators Association formed with Morrison elected as the first president. The goal of the association was to foster closer cooperation between music educators in Adams County and to become more involved in state activities. Morrison led the group's program of solo, ensemble, band, orchestra and choral festivals in Adams County schools, including the Adams County Music Panorama, where students from Adams County schools would give a concert at a host school. The Panorama concerts were an annual event from 1954 into the 1960s. In 1951, Morrison was guest conductor of the U.S. Navy Band when it performed in Quincy.

Morrison retired in June 1951 after 35 years of teaching. At his final band concert that year, he was presented with a check and a bound volume of 247 letters of personal thanks and tributes from former students. The Quincy Herald-Whig of April 19, 1963, said that one tribute said, "While Paul Morrison was building bands he also was building character,"

Morrison was one of only two people to be named an honorary member of the Quincy Rotary Club. On April 18, 1963, Morrison died at Blessing Hospital at age 77. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery.

The music department continued to thrive after Morrison retired. Music supervisors after him have been: Dan Perrino (1951 to 1955), Dale Kimpton (1955 to 1969), Eugene Johnson (1969 to 1989) and Kathleen Dooley (1989 to present.)

Perrino added a school jazz program, and the "New Faces" student variety show was introduced.

Kimpton brought his passion for excellence, instituting musicianship checklists for students and encouraged participation in ensemble and solo contests.

Johnson's years saw growth in the band and music staff, with Ed Allen becoming high school band director.

In 1986, Les Fonza took over QHS bands as director, where he continued the spirit of excellence.

Under Kathy Dooley's leadership, the band has seen many updates, including the marching band moving to a themed precision drill show.

In 2010, Matt Gabriel, a QHS alum, returned to become band director, where he continues to be a positive influence on young musicians.

Morrison's influence continued to be felt long after he retired. In April 1992, the Quincy Junior High School started a campaign to fund a new parking lot and theater renovations. Joe Bonansinga spearheaded the campaign as long as the theater and parking lot could be named after Morrison. The six-month campaign initially sought $100,000 for renovations, but the decision to install a longer-lasting concrete parking surface increased the cost to $147,381. An event on Nov 15, 1992, to dedicate the new parking lot included performances by the high school band and the Quincy Community Concert Band. Morrison and his wife, also an accomplished musician, were honored with plaques outside the auditorium.

Morrison Theater continues to be a vital auditorium for local productions and events. In April 2018, the Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association and Quincy Junior High School worked together to raise funds to install new equipment, including a high-definition projector, large-format screen and the associated electronics. The $53,000 renovation was made possible through grants and donations and was achieved with minimal disruption to the beautiful architecture of the auditorium. There are plans to update Morrison Theater this summer with a $528,000 renovation to redo the rigging and curtains.

Today, Quincy Senior High Concert Band continues to be a positive, creative outlet for students. About 200 students participate in one of the two concert bands or three jazz bands. In 2016, a campaign was started to raise funds for new uniforms to replace the 20-year-old ones. The campaign was a success, and the new uniforms were worn for the first time in the 2017 Dogwood Parade. The band continues to perform at state and national contests and be an inspiration for others, including the all-female bass drum line in 2019.

 

Melissa DeVerger is a librarian and a Quincy native with an interest in history.

 

Sources:

"F. Maud Harding, Teacher for Over 40 Years, is Dead." The Quincy Herald-Whig, Oct. 6, 1955, p. 14.

 

Gertz, Deborah. "Dedication Honors Morrisons." The Quincy Herald-Whig, Nov. 16, 1992, p. 1A.

 

"History of the QPS Music Department." Quincy Public Schools Department of Music. qpsmusic.org/music-department-history-2/ (accessed April 30).

 

Hopf, Matt. "Campaign Launches to Replace 20-Year-Old Marching Blue Devils Uniforms." The Quincy Herald-Whig, April 4, 2016, whig.com/article/20160404/ARTICLE/304059999/1444

 

Husar, Deborah Gertz. "QSOA, QPS Collaborate on New Morrison Theater Audiovisual Equipment." The Quincy Herald-Whig, May 4, 2018, whig.com/20180505/qsoa-qps-collaborate-on-new-morrison-theater-audiovisual-equipment

 

"QHS all-girl bass drum line 'made a name' for itself." The Quincy Herald-Whig, May 6, 2019, whig.com/20190506/qhs-all-girl-bass-drum-line-made-a-name-for-itself.

 

Husar, Edward. "Officials Plan Morrison Plaza Dedication." The Quincy Herald-Whig, November 8, 1992, p. 4B.

 

Landrum, Carl. "QHS Band at 1930 National Contest." The Quincy Herald-Whig, Aug. 31, 1969, p. 3C.

 

"Early High School Orchestras." The Quincy Herald-Whig, Nov. 9, 1969, p. 3C.

 

Landrum, Carl and Shirley Landrum. "History of Music in Quincy and Adams County." First Bankers Trust, Quincy, Ill., 2010.

 

"Morrison Theatre, gym floor, lockers on the agenda to be upgraded at QJHS." WGEM.com, Feb. 27, 2019, wgem.com/2019/02/27/morrison-theatre-gym-floor-lockers-on-the-agenda-to-be-upgraded-at-qjhs/

 

Paul E. Morrison. U.S. Find a Grave Index, 1600s-current. Digital images. http://ancestry.com.

 

"Paul Morrison, Pioneer in School Music, is Dead." The Quincy Herald-Whig, April 19, 1963, p. 18.

 

20th Anniversary Quincy High School Band in Concert. April 25, 1940. Program, Quincy, Ill.