The Austin High School Girls’ Band of Chicago, Illinois: 1925–1956

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Journal of Research in Music Education

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The purpose of this study was to examine the history of the Austin High School (AHS)

Girls’ Band (AHSGB) of Chicago, Illinois, which existed from 1925 to 1956. This

research focused on the band’s (a) organization and leadership, (b) activities within

the school and community, (c) relationship to the AHS Boys Band, and (d) efforts to

challenge and support traditional gender roles of the early and mid-twentieth century.

I also considered how the history of this group might provide historical context

to lingering attitudes regarding female band musicians and conductors today. H. E.

Nutt organized the AHSGB in fall 1925 at the request of female students and school

administration. The ensemble operated similarly to the boys’ band in that it functioned

on a military basis, performed as both a concert and marching unit, and competed

among the boys at city band and solo contests. The AHSGB gradually moved away

from the all-military approach beginning in the early 1940s and eventually assumed a

more feminine image that aligned with society’s efforts to restore traditional gender

roles following World War II. The AHSGB combined with the boys in the fall of 1956,

which resulted in a steep decline in female participation.


This article was published in Journal of Research in Music Education, volume 66, issue 1, 31-52, January 30, 2018,