Freeport celebrates oldest public school orchestra in the country Oct. 16

Staff Report

FREEPORT, Illinois — The Freeport School District Orchestra Department will celebrate its 150th anniversary during the 2014/15 school year. This makes it the oldest public school orchestra in the country.

Thursday, Oct. 16, there will be a concert that includes the talents of more than 160 musicians from grades sixth through 12th. This is free to the public. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Jeannette Lloyd Theatre, in the Freeport Middle School at 701 W. Empire St., Freeport, Illinois.

Students will be performing pieces ranging from the time of their inception during the Civil War through 20th century genres — a musical journey through the orchestra’s 150 years. The high school orchestra performance includes guest artist and alumnus Christina Parkinson, harpist, on Tschaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Other selections include Leroy Anderson and Mozart.

In the Civil War days of 1864, Frances Augusta Rosebrugh organized the first school orchestra to perform for plays, operettas and commencement exercises. Her first orchestra consisted of two violins, one cornet, one clarinet and one piano. Music education historian Edward Bailey Birge reports formal high school orchestras emerging in communities in 1896, 1898 and 1899. This places Freeport Orchestra as the oldest, continuously operating school orchestra in the nation.

A complete written and pictorial history of the program can be found on the orchestra website at Photographs of events and activities throughout the year will be posted along with concert recordings.

For more details, contact Tracy Palleson at

Posted Oct. 15, 2014

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