“That Altus Band History”
The history of "That Altus Band" is an intersting one. It all started back in 1933 in the heart of the depression when a young Oklahoma A&M college graduate, Dick Jewell, came to town in August, one of the slowest business months of the year. Jewell told a disgruntled businessmen that he thought it would be a good idea if Altus business owners would help him verbally and financially organize a band. It seemed a futile move to almost everyone concerned. The citizens of Altus thought the August sun of southwestern Oklahoma had a hold on Jewell (for whom our music building is named), who had graduated from Oklahoma A&M with an engineering degree and then decided the country needed more music if it was to survive the depression Jewell knew that engineering was not going to get him through the lean years. Jewell launched his band campaign the day he landed in Altus. For a week, he spoke with town citizens and tried to find musicians. The night of August 17, 1933, he called his first rehearsal. There were nine people present who could play their instruments fairly well. Fast-forward five years,and with a lot of hard work, the Altus band was a success. In 1937, the Altus band consisted of a first band of 90 members, a girls drum and bugle corps of 80 members, and a second band of 40 members. When combined, these units actually owned more than $25,000 worth of equipment. They traveled at least 10,000 miles to appear before a half million people and had their pictures and stories in more than 20 million copies of print. In 1937, the Altus Band attended the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition. When the announcer was overtaken with the band's precision and sound, he exclaimed, "Look at That Altus Band!" This is where the band's nickname started. The Dallas Journal on June 14,1937, wrote, "Here is no band---here is youth and euphony on the grand march, and in the grand manner." On March 1,1938, Mr. Clifford Peterson, the principal at Altus Junior High wrote, "Personally, I feel that the training that the musicians receive in band or drum corps is just as important as the training they may receive in the academic subjects in the classroom. The knowledge of music and the ability to appreciate good music will be a source of happiness throughout their lives." Over seventy years has transpired, and the band is still one of the leading 4A bands in the state of Oklahoma. Thousands of students and parents have been a part of the tradition and success of "That Altus Band."