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Valley Music Hall of Fame honors Harkins

For The Madera Tribune

Former Madera High School Band Director, Allen and his wife Faye Harkins, have been recognized for their unmatched musical showmanship.


Former Madera High School Band Director, Allen and his wife Faye Harkins, have been recognized for their unmatched musical showmanship that became known as the Harkins Music Machine.

The Valley Music Hall of Fame will host its induction ceremony on September 21 at the Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 North Wishon, Fresno. Celebrating the induction, they are hosting a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception to present the awards. Tickets are $30 and going fast, said the Roger Rocka Box Office clerk.

Other local musicians to be honored with its second class of the Hall of Fame are Ray Camacho, Richard Hagopian, Gener Bluestein and the Fresno Musical Club.

Allen Harkins, who passed away in March, 2004, is remembered as “The Arranger,” said their son Nicholas Harkins. “Arranging, rather than composing, was dad’s favorite form of music creation.”

Faye, who passed away in March, 1988, is best remembered for her collaboration with her husband and the creation of The Madera High School Show Band Of The Valley.

Allen Harkins earned two music degrees at the College of the Pacific. During this time, he organized a band that played dinner and dancing music at the popular Hoberg’s Resort near Clear Lake. He also arranged music for Alvino Ray, Bob Crosby and other popular musicians who appeared at Hoberg’s.

During this time, he wrote the famous Glenn Miller song “Tuxedo Junction,” which he did not copyright. His future wife Faye also graduated from COP where she and Allen had met.

After graduation, she went to Hollywood to work with a famous movie costume designer.

For 20 years, the Harkins Music Machine introduced musicality, style and flair into the valley high school settings. This included his 100-piece Madera Union High School Band that became known as the Show Band Of The Valley.

Harkins arranged all of the music and band formations while Faye designed and sewed all of the costumes worn and choreographed the girl’s dance routines.

Together, they presented new halftime shows at all home football games for 20 years, an estimated 120 new halftime shows.

They also created and produced the Madera High Stardusters, a professional caliber dance band playing Harkins’ ever-growing music library. These arrangements were developed for the Stardusters and his own professional dance band. The Stardusters and the Al Harkins Big Band played the arrangements regularly throughout the valley.

“In addition to the appearances of halftimes, ‘Showband,’ the Harkins Music Machine molded the band into a precision marching band that garnered rave reviews. The marching band featured arrangements by my dad while the majorette and lettergirls’ costumes and dance routines were choreographed by my mom,” said Nicholas.

In 1957, the band took first place in its class at the annual All Western Band Review in Long Beach, playing his popular “Kings Favorite” march.

“Kings Favorite” was so remarkable that the following year the rules of the All Western Band Review were changed to prohibit the use of original music in the competition, Nicholas said.

After the football season, the Harkins Music Machine shifted to the production of the school’s annual vaudeville-style show of student talent called The Stardust Review.

“The show was staged during spring weekends in the boys’ gym. The Review also was taken on the road. It appeared in several valley county fairs, including the Merced County Fair and Madera County Fair in Chowchilla, where it appeared for 20 years,” said Nicholas.

In addition to the “Stardust Review,” the Stardusters played at student dances at many other valley high schools and colleges.

After his 1971 retirement, Harkins continued teaching at then Fresno State College. He continued to create arrangements for music departments at the high school and college levels.

He arranged music for valley high school and junior college bands, including the College of the Sequoias and Bakersfield College.

His professional band continued to play in venues throughout the valley.

His fame as “The Arranger” continued to expand. His skill in arranging music specifically suited for high school and college bands was observed by an ever-widening audience of band directors.

“He ably demonstrated his exquisite sense for all kinds and styles of music that he had been refining since his college days. His arrangements gave the bands that played them a professional sound,” said Nicholas.

The late Harry Buyuklian, a popular band director and professional musician in the Fresno area, related a story during Harkins’ memorial service.

He recalled an innocent competition years before among band directors in the Fresno Area to determine who had the best band.

“When I heard the Madera High School Band marching toward me playing “Lover,” I knew it was over,” said Buyuklian.

The song “Lover” was a 1932 Rodgers and Hart torch song from the movie “Love Me Tonight,” he said.

The Harkins Music Machine made more than 50 appearances every year as they were actively producing the football halftime shows, with the parade band, concert band, Stardusters, the Stardust Review and various pep bands.

This doesn’t include the hundreds of times the Al Harkins Big Band performed throughout the Valley. Harkins and his “Music Machine” presence esd felt far and wide. The more bands that played his arrangements, the more calls for arrangements he got, said Nickolas.

One such arranging job arose when the Fresno State Band appeared on a televised bowl game, playing Harkins’ arrangements.

Soon thereafter, the Oklahoma State University band director contacted Harkins which began a continuing relationship for Harkins to arrange music for the OSU band that lasted until its band director retired.

Harkins was elected President of the Central Valley Section of The California Music Educators Association, a group comprised of 500 music teachers, from elementary school to college, ranging from Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern Counties.

In 1971, the California State Assembly and Senate commended Allen and Faye Harkins upon their retirement from Madera High School.

Governor Ronald Reagan congratulated and thanked Allen and Faye Harkins for their 25 years of service to youth and the broader community as an inspiration to all who know them.

Additionally, that same year the Madera Mayor and its city council issued proclamations saluting Allen and Faye Harkins for their 25 years of service.

In 1972, Harkins arranged the music for Miss Fresno County for her use in the Miss California Pageant in San Diego.

The Kingsburg High School band, under the direction of Larry Johnson, used a special Harkins arrangement of “I’m Just Wild About Harry” at the inauguration of Harry Aslan as International President of the Lions Club in Dallas, Texas in June 1975.

In 1984, Harkins was inducted into the Central California Traditional Jazz Society Hall Of Fame. He was recognized for his arrangements of Dixieland-style music played by many professional musicians in the Fresno Area.

In August of 1988, the Madera City Council honored the couple Allen during one of its regular Sunday in the Park concert series. That night he was joined by The Fresno Municipal Band playing his arrangements.

In 1996, The Madera County Arts Council awarded Harkins its Artist Award.

The same year, the California State Senate and the State Assembly recognized Harkins for the years of pleasure derived from his writing and performing music.

In 1997, Madera’s Mayor issued a proclamation officially renaming the new amphitheater at Lions Town and Country Park “The Allen Harkins Amphitheater.”

In 1976, the new music building on the south campus of Madera High School was named for Harkins and Lois Worthington, the longtime MHS choir mistress.

Harkins was honored as “Mr. Music” and made Grand Marshal of the 1988 Madera Old Timers’ Day Parade.

“Thank you to the Valley Music Hall of Fame for honoring my mom and dad by inducting them into its Class of 2022 Hall of Fame. I am extremely proud that they received this recognition, which can only be called a high honor,” said Nicholas.

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