"Professor" Andrew Goodman

Born on December 12, 1825 in Bavaria (Germany), Andrew Goodman emigrated to the United States with his family at the age of 11, locating in Columbus, OH. There, young Andrew began his musical training on the cornet, soon joining the best brass band in that city, eventually becoming the top cornet player in it at the age of 18. He held that post for 21 years, interrupted by the eruption of the conflict between the Northern and Southern states. At the age of 36, he volunteered and was appointed a leader of the 19th Ohio Infantry regimental band, serving for approximately 2 years until a developing heart condition forced his honorable medical discharge from the service. He returned to Columbus and resumed his life there.

Meanwhile, here in Decatur, the nucleus of what is now the Decatur Municipal Band was begun with a meeting of 9 men on September 19, 1857. This group maintained membership through the war of rebellion, despite several of its members entering into the service of their country. The band was eventually reorganized following the hostilities, in 1867, and a few years later a search was begun for a director with the training and experience to mold the band into a first-rate musical organization. Andrew Goodman was selected and relocated his family (possibly only himself and his wife, as he was, by then, about 46 years of age) to Decatur from Columbus, OH, in about 1871, to take the reins of the (then) Decatur Silver Cornet Band.

The "Professor" (so called, but with no degrees to entitle him, nor with any other apparent musical associations) and his wife, Mary, ran a furniture shop in the city, while Mr. Goodman drilled the band members in the evenings for their concerts and to prepare them for special event performances. Goodman gave his own name to the band, and it remained "The Goodman Band" until 1942, when it was officially registered as "The Decatur Municipal Band" with the city of Decatur. During his tenure as director, until his death of heart failure in January of 1883, the band made marked improvement in its performing abilities. Goodman was noted as a stern and demanding taskmaster but no one seemed to mind, as his demands were met with results, and the band became a notable asset of the municipality.

One anecdotal indication of the abilities of the band's members is that following the untimely death of Henry Prather in 1867, due to a buggy accident in which Mr. Prather was thrown from the vehicle, landing on his head, the band was asked to play at the funeral and in the procession to the cemetery by the widow. Readily agreeing to do so, the band discovered on the morning of the interment ceremonies that the musical selections made by the family were unfamiliar to every member of the band. They, therefore, spent a half hour preceding the service learning the music in question, in order to fulfill their obligations. This was a quality collection of amateur musicians; they simply needed a guide and director to properly forge them into a first class organization.

The success of Mr. Goodman as a disciplinarian is also attested to in the respect by which the citizens of Decatur held him. In August of 1877 the Illinois National Guard was canvassing the state forming units. It arrived in Decatur to form its Company H. The full tally needed for this company was culled from the citizenry of Decatur - hence its common designation as "The Decatur Guards" - and, in their first meeting, Andrew Goodman was elected as its Captain, despite his age (51 years old) and his heart condition. He retained this commission until health forced him to resign it upon its expiration in 1880.

Following Goodman's death, the leadership of the band again passed between various of its local members, during which time it was legally incorporated (in May of 1885). At the time of this incorporation, another search was begun for a determined and trained leader. This brought Robert Walter, another native of Germany, to Decatur. He led the band from 1887 until a stroke in 1928 forced his retirement as director - a tenure of 40 years. It was during this time, that the Goodman Band of Decatur, Illinois gained national fame - being honored to perform in the 1901 inaugural parade (as the 4th Illinois National Guard Regimental Band) for President William McKinley, and representing the State of Illinois at the dedication of the Illinois Pavilion for the 1904 World Exposition in St. Louis. It was also during this period, in 1900, that the band was mustered into the Illinois National Guard as the regimental band of the 4th ING regiment. As a part of that regiment, they saw service in the Spanish-American War. The regiment was also sent to the southwestern region during the Mexican border conflicts with Pancho Villa in 1916, where band members helped in the evacuation of the wounded. Shortly after their return to Decatur, the band was mustered into the 130th Illinois National Guard infantry regiment and sent to France during World War I.

For 158 years, the Decatur band by whatever name under which it has existed has been a cultural showpiece for the citizens of Decatur and Macon County, providing musical accompaniment to the major events of the city's history, performing the classics and introducing new and popular music to the public. It continues to do so, welcoming all to its concerts free of charge, with its regular summer series continuing a long tradition - performing Sunday evenings at 6:00 p.m. in the Fairview Park large pavilion through June and July, and in Central Park on Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m. through the end of August; presenting an annual concert in mid-October (performed at Tabernacle Baptist Church on Wyckles) and appearing in many of the city's annual parades, and at the Decatur Celebration. But its position of excellence and the start of its development as a widely recognized asset to the community began with the arrival of "Professor" Andrew Goodman.