By Melissa Mitchell The halls are alive with the sounds of music at the UI School of Music, where faculty, staff and students are making final preparations for next month's weeklong celebration of the school's 100th anniversary. The school's birthday bash kicks off on March 25, when conductor James Keene strikes up the UI Symphonic Band at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Centennial Festival Week continues through April 2, with a series of performances and lectures highlighting the broad range of musical traditions and culture embraced by the school over the past century. Music-making at the UI actually predates the founding of the School of Music in 1895, according to Ann L. Silverberg, author of "A Sympathy With Sounds," a soon-to-be-released history of the school. In the introduction to her book, Silverberg notes that "the university community had a significant musical culture and a population of talented individuals" well before 1895 - including members of such ensembles as the Military Band; Mandolin, Banjo and Guitar Club; Illinois Quartette; and Glee Clubs. Throughout its rich - and sometimes radical - history, the UI school has gained a reputation as one of the nation's leaders in music education and performance. In 1994, a survey published in U.S. News and World Report ranked the school among the top 10 graduate schools of music in the nation. Among the school's 6,000 living alumni are two Pulitzer Prize winners in composition - Michael Colgrass and George Crumb. "The School of Music has always been well-known for its approach to contemporary music, as well as its music education, musicology and composition areas," said Don V Moses, the school's director. "The school, a long time ago, made the decision not to have a theory department, but to have active composers on its faculty who would teach theory. That's unique in the United States. The UI music school was perhaps first thrust under the national spotlight when the popular band leader and composer John Philip Sousa declared the UI Concert Band to be "the best college band in the United States" and immortalized the institution in his composition "The University of Illinois March." Under the direction of A.A. Harding, the band also became known as the first in the nation to entertain half-time football crowds by marching in formation while simultaneously playing their instruments. In the 1950s and '60s, the School of Music was widely regarded as an incubator for innovation - especially in the composition and performance of "new music" - and served as a magnet for avant-garde composers such as John Cage, Lejaren Hiller and Harry Partch. Looking ahead to the school's second century, director Moses anticipates a major movement in two main directions. "One, of course, is technological changes - changes in the way we teach music and in the ways we hear and perform it," Moses said. Secondly, he expects "a great emphasis on world music - not just on Western music as we have grown up to know it."