ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — As we continue to help move the conversations forward from last year’s racial unrest throughout our country, Spectrum News 13’s Jeff Allen talked with several people about the union between two Orlando marching bands in the 60s — one white and one Black — and why that can serve as a great example for us today.
What You Need To Know
- UCF's 2019 documentary, "Marching Forward," tells the story of two Orlando bands performance in the 1964 World's Fair
- Edgewater High School's all-white band was initially invited to perform at the World's Fair in New York City
- Band Director Del Keiffner, though, insisted Jones High School's all-Black band join his students for the performance
The University of Central Florida's 2019 documentary “Marching Forward” captures the story of how two Orlando bands came together for a trip to perform at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Edgewater High School’s band – which was all white – got the initial invite. Its band director, Del Kieffner, insisted Jones High School’s band — which was all black — joined Edgewater for the performance. Jones High School's band was led by James “Chief” Wilson.
“Two men that were doing something that they loved doing,” said Kay Kimbrough, Kieffner’s daughter.
“Two everyday band directors help changed the fabric of a city,” said Nina Wilson Jones, Wilson’s daughter.
Jones says her father taught his students to create change through music.
“He was sending a subtle message — this is your segregated high school and you’re going to hear some of the best music you’ve heard in this city,” she said.
And together, their music transcended racial differences.
“So they built these friendships on their common interests, their common passions and their common values,” said Kimbrough.
But events across the Unites States in the last year showed many people there’s much more work to do. That realization is encouraging to Wilson.
“So, I have a lot of optimism — even in the protests of today — because non-people of color realize this stuff is happening and it’s still happening and it’s not right,” said Jones.
Bruce Green, who’s led the Edgewater High band and is now band director at Jones High, said he wants his students to harness any outrage and anger resulting from the unrest in a positive way.
“I don’t want them to leave it outside the classroom — let’s bring it in the classroom — let’s talk about those things that are going on in our community and let’s use it as a vehicle to allow there to be more passion about what we do on the stage,” said Green.
Kieffner’s daughters believe the friendship between their father and Chief Jones serves as a great example for people today.
“They focused on the things they had in common,” said Kimbrough. “So I think as we move forward in our world, if we can continue to focus on what we have in common, it’s unlimited for us.”
“My father always had optimism and he always had hope, and he always believed the next generation was going to take the baton and carry it further along,” said Jones.
“It’s like this generation is coming in and saying there’s no glass ceiling, I’m going to erase the lines, I’m going to color outside the lines as well and we’re going to go for it — and I love that,” said Green.
Wilson believes subtle action, like her father’s marching through music, can create change for anyone fighting for racial equality.
“It’s the everyday person sharing coffee with your neighbor, being respectful of your colleague and having a wonderful competition among students that makes everyone better — and you’re comfortable for the next situation and the next opportunity and suddenly the fabric of a community and the lives change,” said Jones.
“Working together and doing what we love for the good of others,” said Kimbrough.
“It is a great lesson,” said Lockhart.