The Tri-State Music Festival began when Russell L. Wiley, University Band Director, 1928-1934, founded Phillips Band Day in 1932 drawing bands from Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. In 1933, it was termed Tri-State Band Festival and later became Tri-State Music Festival. At that time it was expanded to include all music groups.
“Tri-State started with an idea. It was like any other idea. It was born and it grew. It grew more than anyone expected and I feel it will continue to grow. It’s really hard to say just where the idea came from. As I remember, some of the boys in school had attended a band festival in southern Oklahoma. They were so thrilled with the activities there that the question was raised about a band festival at Phillips University. For a while, that’s as far as it went. I had continued to work this around in my mind, trying to see into the future and the possibilities this could offer the area youth.”
“It was finally decided to have a band day. Dr. McCash, president of Phillips at the time, along with one of my band members, Neil Lovell, and I wrote a lot of letters and gathered about eight or ten bands for our first Phillips Band Day in 1932. This was the start of Tri-State, but it still wasn’t what I had in mind. I wanted to inspire the youth interested in music. The field of music and art has always been my love and I wanted to do everything I could to inspire as many young people as possible with what this field had to offer.”
“Edwin Franko Goldmand was the biggest name in music at this time. The thought came to my mind that if by some chance we could get him to come to Enid we could have the biggest festival in the country. I wrote to Goldman and somewhat to our surprise he accepted the invitation. Considering the Chamber of Commerce lost on the first Band Day they weren’t too thrilled about going along with us for another year.”
“With the help of several farsighted businessmen in Enid plans were made for Band Day. During a meeting at the Youngblood Hotel it was decided that we needed a name. We had drawn bands from Oklahom, Kansas, and Texas for the first event so it was unanimously decided to call it Tri-State.”
In 1933 we had our first real Tri-State Band Festival. The name Goldman was the real drawing card. I feel that the real habit of Tri-State was brought about by Goldman. Goldman was invited back for three more years. By this time the directors knew what Tri-State offered their students and it mushroomed into a larger gathering than first expected. It went from the one day affair, as first planned, to the now four day affair.”
“In 1934 which was my last year, we drew 6,000 band members to Enid. The town was bulging with kids. Everyone thought this was about the largest crowd that could be drawn, but even this has been outdone in the years to follow.”
“I left Phillips in 1934 and went to Kansas University as director of the KU band. It was a hard decision to make but I can see now that I took the right step. For the first year or two Tri-State almost failed. If it hadn’t been for the Chamber of Commerce, the businessmen and the interest of the band members themselves it probably wouldn’t have made it.”
Then Dr. Carey came along and gave Tri-State a shot in the arm. Since Dr. Carey came to Phillips Tri-State has continued to grow. It has changed from the Tri-State Band Festival to the Tri-State Music Festival. This, I feel, was a great thing for the meaning of Tri-State and the field of music. It still offers the students that come to Tri-State the great names and it offers the teachings to a much larger group. Tri-State will continue to be a great event for students.
-Russell Wiley (reprinted from permission from tristatemusicfestival.com):
Tri State is a unique festival that continues to promote music for everyone. The next festival is currently planned for May 4-6, 2022