How It Began...
The idea came about indirectly from the Texas Small School All-State but you don't have to mention that if you are wanting to keep the "history" of it in Arkansas. Around 1991 I sent out a letter to all the Class "A" band directors in the state asking if they were interested in starting a Class "A" All-State band. I called AAA and asked if there was any reason we could not call it this since Athletics has a Class "A" Alltate team, a Class "AA" Allstate team, "AAA" and so on up to, at that tiime, "AAAAA". The answer I got from Jim Coates,(AAA Director) was that if it were an invitational event, I could call it whatever I wanted. Later, at J. Raymond Brandons request, the name was change to the Class "A" All Stars. My definition, at that time, of Class "A" was what conference their football team played in. Later this was changed to the band classification of A-AA opening the door for more bands to participate.
I volunteered to host the tryouts and I believe Fountain Lake hosted the first concert. Paul Gray was the first clinician. Bands from all 9 Regions came to the original tryout at Jessieville. We awarded the students patches for their jackets and we intentionally made them more attractive than the Arkansas All-State patches.
Other directors that I REMEMBER had a part in starting it up were: Michael Copeland-Bismark, Frank Janaskie-Fountain Lake, Lonnie Landers-Mt Ida, Judy Landers-Caddo Hills, Ken Elliot-Barton, Ron McHone-Stamps, David Schook-Cedarville, Steve Collins-Smackover, AND MANY others. If someone tells you they were at the very first one they are probably correct. I think we had 30 schools. I will eventually find the program because I know I have it somewhere.
The Class "A" Marching Contest at Jessieville was started the same year. The purpose of both of these was to showcase the talent of the band students in Small Schools in Arkansas.