Richard Day: Ames High Music Man

Posted May 14, 2021

Performing arts were minimal in the early years of Ames High School. Small groups would perform as a chorus or cornet band, dependent on student interest. Orchestra was formed in 1903, and band in 1920. Participant numbers were low due both in part to lack of initial interest and the inability to secure instruments. That began to change when a new band director, Richard Day joined Ames High. While the band’s main purpose was to assist the Pep Club in putting pep into school, with Day’s leadership, they began turning out at a full array of athletic events and other activities. 

Day began work in 1928 and made his initial order of business to have the first ever band uniforms. According to The Spirit yearbook of that same year, “the orange and black jackets and caps improve their appearance very much, and many believe the music is also improved when the students are decked out in such fine apparel.” Day also made band an all-school option instead of just a senior high band. This allowed larger numbers of participants, including junior high students, to gain valuable experience. The all-school band practiced for just shy of 2 hours every Wednesday evening. 

Day would continue to scale the school’s band program, offering a swing band in 1937 which played for matinee dances and special occasions. In 1939, new uniforms were once again added and further improved the band’s appearance. In 1940, as lighting of the football field was minimal, the band donned cap lights to be able to see for both playing and marching. By the 1960’s, the marching band had over 130 members and was performing intricate shows and formations. Day’s imaginative entries in the VEISHEA parade won first place nearly every year. During his tenure, Day also wrote the Ames High Fight song, Loyalty. Lovingly dubbed the Ames High Music Man, Day remained on staff with the band until his retirement in 1969. 

“It’s been quite an experience,” mused Day in the 1969 yearbook, concerning his 41 years at AHS as band director, “to have been in one place so long and witnessed changes that have taken place in the size of the school system and even the city itself. Activities and academic offerings have broadened. All in all, it’s been a rewarding and gratifying experience.”

Day passed away in 1983 yet his legacy lives on. Today’s band tops nearly 300 members strong and continues to play Ames High “Loyalty.”