History of the Panther Marching Band

For the past 84 years, the Eastern Illinois University Panther Marching Band has captivated audiences across the state with spectacular performances.  Whether marching before the home crowd or away, the Panther Marching Band is gaining a position of distinction and a reputation for excellence.

The Panther Marching Band is currently under the direction of J. Corey Francis. Band members are chosen by placement hearings, and represent virtually every school and curriculum on the Eastern campus.  Currently, about half of the members are music majors preparing for careers as performers or teachers.  The Panther Marching Band includes members from across the state of Illinois as well as several states from across the country. 

The Panther Marching Band is housed in Doudna Fine Arts Center, a brand new 65 million dollar building. 

Throughout its history, one of the primary goals of the Eastern Illinois University Panther Marching Band has been to maintain and foster the SPIRIT of Eastern.  As the Bands enter their 84th year at Eastern Illinois University, the Panther Marching Band continues to strive for excellence as well as fuel the spirit of this great university!

The Beginning

The College Band made its official debut on October 27, 1927, at chapel, followed by playing at a football game with Evansville College (Teacher College News, October 24, 1927). Credit for starting the Band goes to Dr. Ora L. Railsback, college physics teacher. The Warbler for 1928 gave the Band this welcome:

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Teachers College Band, an infant among E.I. organizations but a lusty one that in the past few months has cut its eye teeth, thrown away the nursing bottle, and learned to march and play in a manner that has won it a sure place in our college life. The band was the happy idea of Mr. Railsback, and with about twenty-five players to work with, Mr. Railsback has organized, trained, and conducted the organization until it is a real band. Hitherto a band has been considered a luxury at E.I., but now everybody regards it as a prerequisite to that enthusiasm that helps to spell victory at athletic contests (The Warbler, 1928, p. 85).

The original band consisted of 28 total members consisting of 4 faculty members, 2 nonstudents of E.I., and 22 E.I. students. The funds necessary for the band were donated by the various college and high school classes and by a gift from the diploma class of 1927. Later in the year the faculty also contributed, and it was possible in March 1928 to purchase instruments which made more members possible. Uniforms were the next step. The uniform used for the first two years consisted of white sailor caps, blue coats, and white trousers or skirts. In 1929, the familiar blue and gray uniforms were secured.

An immediate consequence of the organization of the Band was that in the fall of 1928, a teacher of instrumental music other than piano was added to the faculty. This teacher, Mr. Harlan L. Hassberg, took over the direction of both the Band and the Orchestra. Thus, Mr. Railsback’s organization was officially adopted by the Music Department. Mr. Railsback continued with the Band as a player and as business manager. Mrs. Railsback also played with the Band during its early years. In 1936, the Band assumed two forms, the Marching Band and the Concert Band.

Former Directors

Railsback 1927-1928 

Hassberg 1928-1931

Weckel 1931-1936

Asbury 1936-1940

Rudolph Anfinson 1940-1944 and 1945-1947

Elbert I Masten 1944-1945

Thomas Richardson 1947-1949

George S. Wescott 1949-1972

Harold Hillyer 1972-

Robert C. Snyder 1973-

Gregory G. Clemons 1983-1985

Tom Brawner 1985-1989

Richard Barta 1986-1989

Bruce Moss 1990-1994

Richard Barta 1990-1994

Joseph Manfredo 1994-2001

Jeff Schultz 1998-1999

Gary E. Smith 2000-2001

Joseph Allen 2001-2003

Christine Beason 2003-2005

Jeffrey Steiner 2005-2007

Milton Allen 2006-2010

Barry L. Houser 2008-2011

R. Alan Sullivan 2011-2012

J. Corey Francis 2012-present