The Georgia Museum of Art is presenting Before the March King: 19th-Century American Bands, a collection of items that trace the history of early American concert bands from their inception in the 1830s until their decline at the turn of the 20th century. The exhibition is on display at the museum through Jan. 3.
Before the March King takes its name from the nickname of bandleader John Philip Sousa. Known as “the March King,” Sousa composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Although many people believe Sousa is the story of 19th-century American band music, he had both predecessors and followers.
The “Golden Age” of American bands began after the American Civil War and continued until the turn of the century. The bands of this era provided one of the most popular forms of entertainment, often touring the country and drawing great crowds wherever they stopped. The World’s Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival of 1872, for example, which took place in Boston, was held in a venue with a seating capacity of 100,000, erected specifically for the event.
George Foreman, the director of UGA’s Performing Arts Center, has worked to amass paintings, prints, illustrated sheet music, vintage instruments and photographs related to the history of American bands for many years, and the exhibition comes entirely from his collection. Sarah Kate Gillespie, the museum’s curator of American art, selected the objects with Foreman’s help to tell the story of these bands.
“This exhibition offers a rich opportunity to trace the development of an important piece of American history through its material and visual culture,” Gillespie said. “Together these objects help bring to life the popular phenomenon of the American band during the 19th century in a way that will hopefully resonate with today’s viewers.”
Events associated with the exhibition include:
• Concerts by students from the Hugh Hodgson School of Music on Oct. 14, Oct. 21 and Nov. 18 at noon.
• A tour led by Gillespie on Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.
• A screening of the film The Music Man on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m.
• A Make It an Evening event, with a gallery tour by Foreman on Oct. 22 at 5 p.m.
• The museum’s quarterly reception, 90 Carlton: Autumn, on Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. (Admission is $5 for the public and free for members of the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art.)
• A Family Day on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to noon, with an instrument petting zoo and a performance by students from the Hodgson School of Music.
• A tour led by Foreman on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.