California State University, Northridge officials have created a scholarship endowment in honor of Joan A. Lamb, a pioneering musician and educator who toured the United States and Canada during World War II as part of an all-female military band.
Lamb, who died in May 2007 at age 89, left the university more than $250,000 for the creation of a scholarship for students who are not eligible for other scholarships or state and federal grants due to their parental income, but still exhibit financial need. The first Joan A. Lamb Scholarship is expected to be awarded next fall.
Lili Vidal, director of CSUN’s Financial Aid and Scholarship Department, said the unexpected Lamb bequest will make a difference for many students.
“It fills a hole out there for some students who need some support, but for one reason or another are not eligible for federal and state grants,” Vidal said. “Many students who come from middle-class families are having a difficult time qualifying for grants. Even if they’ve qualified for loans, the loans may not cover all their expenses. A scholarship like this can really fill that gap for them.”
Joan A. Lamb, who was living in Pahrump, Nev., at the time of her death, has been hailed as a pioneer in the world of music, particularly for her work with military bands and in education.
Born in 1918 to musical parents, Lamb began her music training early, playing first the trumpet then the cello and oboe. She attended Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, where she majored in music education as an instrumentalist. In 1940, she began teaching music in a rural school in Cooperdale, Ohio. After her fiancée was drafted at the start of World War II, Lamb decided to research military opportunities for women.
In 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed legislation establishing a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), which later became the Women’s Army Corps. The other military branches quickly followed the example with the Navy WAVES, Coast Guard SPARS and the Marines MCWR. By the end of the war, nearly 400,000 women had enlisted. After completing boot camp, these women chose from a variety of different job opportunities, including an all-female military band.
In 1943, Lamb joined the WAAC as a band member. The role of the WAAC (later WAC) band was to boost the morale of the troops and perform martial duties. Lamb was ordered to attend the Army Music School in Fort Myer, Va., where she was trained as a band leader. She was then sent to Fort Des Moines in Iowa to direct the 400th WAC all-women’s band. She also took on the assignment of starting an all-women’s African American band, the first of its kind.
Lamb’s band toured the United States and Canada to raise money to support the war effort. They also performed in hospitals for wounded soldiers. The band once played all evening at the Seattle Port of Embarkation pier for soldiers about to ship out. Band members recalled being serenaded by a few thousand male voices singing “Goodnight Ladies” as the men left.
When Lamb’s time with the 400th WAC band ended, she was one of two women who joined the Armed Forces Radio Orchestra in Hollywood, Calif. The AFRO performed with such stars as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. The performances were recorded and sent to the troops overseas.
Once the war ended, Lamb joined the Hormel Girls, which was made up of women who played in World War II bands and eventually became a drum and bugle corps. She toured the country in 1948 with the Hormel Girls before returning to Los Angeles.
Once back in Los Angeles, Lamb embarked on a 30-year career as a music educator, principal and administrator with the Los Angeles Unified School District. She was known for her efforts to include children with disabilities in bands and orchestras.
California State University, Northridge has more than 33,000 full- and part-time students and offers 66 bachelor’s and 53 master’s degrees as well as 28 teaching credential programs. Founded in 1958, CSUN is among the largest single-campus universities in the nation and the only four-year public university in the San Fernando Valley. The university serves as the intellectual, economic and cultural heart of the Valley and beyond.