Bruce Houseknecht was appointed band director in 1945, a position he held for 24 years. In addition, he was head of the JTHS and Joliet Junior College music departments from 1946-65; head of the department of fine arts from 1965-69 and director of orchestra for Central Campus from 1967-69.
Originally from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Mr. Houseknecht started playing the violin at age 5. He has a bachelor's in music education from Penn State and a master's of arts from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. Prior to coming to Joliet, he was the supervisor of instrumental music for public schools in Milton, Pennsylvania.
Under Houseknecht's baton, the band continued to win Division I Superior ratings at the Illinois State Contest level and was invited to perform five times at the Midwest Band Clinic in Chicago. In 1948-51 and 1953, the band won the Gold Trophy award for best Class AA Marching Band in the Tournament of Bands at Riverview Park in Chicago, in which 192 bands and drum corps from six mid-western states competed. The band received a first place trophy in the junior division at the Presidential Inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953.
Mr. Houseknecht appeared as an adjudicator and guest conductor throughout the United States. In addition to being in high demand, Houseknecht was a member of Phi Mu Alpha, an honorary member of Kappa Psi, and inducted into both the American Bandmasters Association and the American School Band Directors Association. He was a contributing editor of the Instrumentalist magazine for several years and served on the summer faculty at University of Michigan, University of Colorado, Louisiana State University and University of North Dakota. He also served as guest conductor and lecturer at the Eastman School of Music. He was a member of the executive board of the Illinois Music Educators Association, serving as president for two years. A violinist by trade, he was concertmaster for Joliet Junior College and was choir director at Central Presbyterian Church of Joliet for 10 years.
In 1969, Mr. Houseknecht accepted a post as a professor at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. At age 57, he died in 1974 in Rochester. He was posthumously memorialized in 1974 with a memorial plaque in the lobby of the new Music Educators National Conference (MENC) building in Reston, Va., and inducted into the Joliet-Will County Project Pride in 1987.
Charles Peters and Bruce Houseknecht
Bruce Houseknecht - 1950
JTHS band room rehearsal - Jan. 7, 1953 - ( Ray Gora, Chicago Tribune )
The Joliet High School band practices
(above) on Jan. 7, 1953. The band was preparing for its trip to Washington
to march in the inauguration day parade for the swearing in of Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Special thanks to
JT West director Dean Sayles for providing the link to the historic photo gallery that includes this photo.)
Here is a partial list of names of the band members pictured above:
First row (L to R) - Leon Kuhs, Joe Bardi,
Fred Gould, Dick Anselmino, Dick Hundley,
Ken Pritz, Bruce Morrison, Jay Massey, Fred Kurtz, ? Hughes,
right of BHH (Mr. Houseknecht) - Roger Anderson.
Behind them: John Bengston (Alto Clar.),
Norm Sing, Wayne Gilbert, Chuck Adkins, ?,
Bob Maxwell, right of BHH - Jack Agazzi.
1st Trumpet row: ?, Tom Gustafson ?, John
Dennis, John Argedelous, Art Simpson, ?,
Russ Dahlen, Tom Trevena. Jack Ambrose in row behind
(next to Ed Kursell). Sax to the right of BHH - Jim Stukel.
Only Sousaphone face - Rich Viano
Baritones: Ed Kursell, Roger Younghusband
Trombones: partially hidden behind BHH - Dorian Riggen, Norm Strickland
Percussion: ?, ? possibly Dave Allen,
Bill Ellenberg, ?, Paul Gatons plus lots of others
- possibly Glenn Ruthenbeck on Bass drum
- Dean Sayles is 2nd from right next to the drum room.
History of the JTHS Bands
under Director Bruce Houseknecht
(Contents and Links below)