1922 Orchestra

During the early years of Arkansas State Normal School (now the University of Central Arkansas) attempts were made to create a school orchestra and keep it going from year to year.  The first photograph of the College Orchestra appeared in the 1922 Scroll.  There were 15 members in the 1922 orchestra that was under the direction of Homer F. Hess, Head of the Department of Music.

There was a big contrast in the orchestra from 1922 to 1923. One major problem that was described in both the 1922 and 1923 Scrolls, was the difficulty in obtaining an adequate number of string players each year. To help alleviate this weakness, Mr. Hess came up with a proposed solution to the problem.  According to the 1923 Scroll, “Last year Mr. Hess came to the conclusion that he could not expect a sufficient number of violin students to enter school annually to keep up that side of the organization; so he offered a beginners course in violin free to all students at the beginning of the school year.  His invitation was accepted by a large number of students, many of them showing talent and being admitted to membership in the orchestra.”

No matter how small in number the orchestra was, the rest of the student body greatly appreciated their efforts.  According to the 1923 Scroll, “Probably no other organization in school has proven so popular as the orchestra this year.  It has appeared in public concerts and entertainments numerous times during the school year, and always has exacted extended cheers from the audience.  It has appeared at all school functions where music of that kind was desired, and helped materially in the success of many of them.”

Mr. Hess was also a composer and composed the current UCA Alma Mater.  Hess wrote the music and Ora Blackmun, UCA professor of English, wrote the lyrics.  The Alma Mater appears to have been written in 1923 and has a copyright date of 1925.  UCA has had more than one song to serve as the Alma Mater, but it was the one composed by Hess that has withstood the test of time. Hess came to UCA in 1919 and resigned in August 1941.

The College Orchestra changed its name to the Little Symphony and made its first appearance under the the new name on January 11, 1949, when it performed at an assembly under the direction of Milton Trusler.  The Little Symphony became a fixture on campus and also an integral part of the Department of Music.  From 1949 to 1984 it was under the direction of Dr. Carl Forsberg, who also served as chair of the Department of Music from 1970 to 1980.

More on the Little Symphony, its progression and its next name change in a future article.