Seattle's Garfield High School finally celebrates its centennial
Delayed for two years by COVID-19 restrictions, Seattle's "arts magnet" Garfield High School will hold its centennial celebrations on Saturday, August 27.
Well known for its music programs, Garfield High School's long history with music education began in 1928 with band director Parker Cook, who lobbied the community for support for teaching the arts, and particularly for student bands.
Through his efforts, Garfield High School became an arts magnet school — open to all Seattle Public School students with a themed curriculum — in 1969. Parker retired in 1971, passing the baton to Clarence Acox, a 21-year old drummer from New Orleans.
Under Acox's direction, Garfield High's marching band flourished. Acox initiated the Garfield Jazz program, and up until his retirement in 2008, he led the jazz band to win multiple awards—most notably from the annual Essentially Ellington competitions held at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Garfield High's current band director, Jared Sessink, is continuing the pursuit of excellence in music education.
Founded as "East High" in 1920, it was renamed James A. Garfield High School after the 20th president of the United States in 1922. The school building was completed in 1923 and an extensive remodel took place between 2006-2008, including the modern Quincy Jones Performing Arts Center.
Musician and producer Quincy Jones graduated from Garfield High in 1950, and serves as the honorary chairman for the centennial event.
"We embraced our differences of race, religion and economic status. We had great pride in knowing that Garfield had the most diverse student body among all high schools in Seattle."Barney Hilliard, saxophonist and Garfield High alumni
The"GHS Centennial Celebration - Celebrating 10 Decades of Garfield History & Traditions" on August 27 will include musical performances by noted alumni and current students, along with mini reunions, historical displays, community partner presentations, student displays, and food trucks.
According to longtime Seattle saxophonist Barney Hilliard, many of the best-known regional musical families attended Garfield High.
Hillard graduated from Garfield High in 1956, and is the entertainment coordinator for the centennial celebration. Music is scheduled throughout the day and at various sites on the Garfield High campus.
A quartet featuring Jeremy Shaskus on sax and Nathan Breedlove on trumpet perform at 2:45 p.m. in the Reunion Tent on the athletic field.
"We had the most diverse, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural student body," Hilliard wrote in the Garfield High School memories collection.
"We embraced our differences of race, religion and economic status. We had great pride in knowing that Garfield had the most diverse student body among all high schools in Seattle."
The Garfield High School Centennial committee says this event is open to the public, and invites the community to join the celebration on August 27.