David Diggs (center) and members of the Lehigh Wind Ensemble.

Lehigh has a storied tradition of concert bands dating back to the band’s inception in 1908. In recognition of the university’s sesquicentennial, David Diggs has created a program of Lehigh’s most recognizable songs, to be performed May 1. 

Diggs, lecturer of music and director of the Lehigh Wind Ensemble, has pored over the wind ensemble’s archives to develop a retrospective of wind music throughout Lehigh’s history. He has examined programs from earlier band performances to develop a history of Lehigh’s concert band.

“There’s not much archival material about the concert part of the band,” says Diggs. “The Marching 97 has a rather comprehensive set of pictures and documentation, but we lack that information. The wind ensemble has progressed from what once was the concert band.” 

The wind ensemble, as a term and concept, developed in the 1950s at the Eastman School of Music. Prior to that, ensembles were bands and were called either symphonic or concert bands. The wind ensemble is a continuation of the band traditions that developed in the early part of the 20th century with the development of the concert band.

“My goal is to really pinpoint when the piece was played and chronicle the history of the wind ensemble at Lehigh. We especially want to highlight those pieces written specifically for Lehigh,” says Diggs.

Pieces to be performed at the May concert will include works by Thomas Coates, Gustav Holtz and alumnus Michael D’Ambrosio. 

“We’ll play Procession of the Nobles, usually played at graduation,” says Diggs, adding, “It’s similar to our CD Lehigh Glory, where we did Centennial Song (Lehigh, Hail!), Rearing, Tearing, Lehigh Victory March and Lehigh Will Shine. We’ll close out the evening with the songs that have a long tradition. They’re songs that have been played at Lehigh since the 1930s.” 

“That must have been an amazing time to be at Lehigh,” says Diggs. “The university annually held a song contest, and the students wrote songs that often went on to be published. Lehigh’s song traditions, the songs alumni often hear at football games, developed from that period in the ’30s. We especially want to highlight those pieces written specifically for Lehigh.”

Diggs notes that former band director Jonathan Elkus was friends with many composers of band music, including the renowned Richard Goldman, who conducted his own band. Goldman wrote Pride of the 97. Also on the program will be Fanfare: Salute to Lehigh by Sir Arthur Bliss. 

Diggs has been wind ensemble director since 1998, following a distinguished career as a freelance woodwind specialist in New York City. He has performed with the New York City Ballet Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Moiseyev Russian Ballet and in numerous Broadway shows. He has been internationally recognized for his research of the band music of the American Civil War era and the music of the English Foot Guard bands of the late 18th century. He has recently been elected an honorary member of the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain.