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Austyn R. Edwards

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Biography

Austyn Rhys Edwards (b. 28 December 1891, Balston, Ore. – 20 July 1977, Casselberry. Fla.) was an American composer, teacher and trumpeter.

His father was a singing teacher from Wales. As a young boy, Austyn loved to listen to the town bands and received his first cornet when he was 14. His father taught him to play. Because of family financial conditions, Austyn left school after the 10th grade. At age 17, he and two of his brothers joined a traveling carnival band. They later joined the Sells-Floto Circus Band, led by Karl King at that time.

In 1912, Edwards went to Chicago and studied cornet with Hale A VanderCook. He then played opera and operetta productions on a Chautauqua circuit. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1917 and was made leader of the newly formed No. 156 Depot Brigade Band.

After the end of World War I, Edwards returned to Chicago and joined the Hallowell Musical Company as cornet soloist for one tour. He then played first trumpet with Bachman's Million Dollar Band, the Chicago Theatre Symphony, the Palace Theatre Orchestra (17 years), the WGN Radio Symphony (10 years), Palmer Clark's World's Fair Orchestra (where he played with Rafael Mendez), the Grant Park Orchestra, and Ralph Dunbar's Grand Opera Orchestra. For short periods, he was also assistant conductor of Kryl's Band and a member of the White Hussars Brass Choir.

Immediately prior to World War II, Edwards left his playing profession to devote full time to private teaching. He and his family moved to Valparaiso, Indiana, where he taught brass instruments at Valparaiso University. During the four years he lived in Indiana, he taught at Hobart High School, taught at the Petrie Band Camp at Winona Lake, and was city band director in La Porte. During World War II, he was a guard at the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant and played trumpet in the plant band.

In 1944, Edwards moved to La Salle, Illinois, to teach in the La Salle-Peru-Oglesby public schools. He later taught at Illinois Wesleyan University, the VanderCook School of Music, the Joliet Conservatory of Music, and several other public schools in the north-central part of Illinois. As a private teacher, he gave as many as 102 private lessons a week. He also conducted scores of clinics and massed bands throughout the Midwest.

Edwards composed 55 marches, of which Flying Eagles was the first to be published (1947). He also was co-author of two cornet instruction books and wrote several cornet solos. Of his marches, Our Gallant Infantry, Navy Blue, and Pride of the Marines are the best known.

In 1968, at the age of 77, and a life member of the Chicago Musicians Union, Edwards retired from teaching and moved to Casselberry, Florida, to be near his daughter Carol. In 1970, the Spring Valley (Illinois) Junior High School authorized the Austyn R. Edwards award for presentation annually to the outstanding graduate in instrumental music. The Walt Disney World Band honored Edwards on his 80th birthday with a concert and a television interview.

His unpublished works were presented by his daughter to the J.F.K. Junior High School Library in Spring Valley, Illinois, where the Austyn R. Edwards Memorial Library was dedicated in April 1978, for the purpose of making his unpublished works available to band directors.


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