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Louis Saverino

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Biography

Louis Saverino (7 May 1915, Windber, Penn. - 6 June 2003) was a gifted and versatile instrumentalist, a collector-restorer of rare string basses and meerschaum pipes, and a veteran of 25 years in the U.S. Marine Band. He is also an accomplished composer, having written 26 marches, nine concertos, six tone poems, five popular songs, and a symphony before he was 38.

Saverino was one of eight music-loving children of Angelo and Pauline Saverino. His father, a musician and barber, taught him musical notation before he started school, and he began jotting down the numerous melodies that came to his mind ever since. He bought his first instrument, a Montgomery Ward E-flat sousaphone, by saving money from a twenty-five-cent-a-day milk delivery job, and by the age of 19 he had completed three semesters at what is now University of Pennsylvania and had won a four-year scholarship to the Eastman School of Music. He augmented his scholarship at Eastman by working as a copyist, graduated as the school’s first tuba performance major in 1938, and, after declining an offer from Jose Iturbi to play with the Detroit Symphony, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Band in 1939.

Although he performed on nearly all of the wind instruments, Saverino concentrated on tuba, string bass, and bass clarinet in the Marine Band. Rated by his fellow band members as “one of the great tuba players of his time,” Saverino has also been described as a virtuoso string bassist in both classical and jazz areas -- he once turned down an offer from Charles Munch to become a member of the Boston Symphony because he did not wish to give up his years of seniority and a dependable pension from the Marine Band. Angelo, one of his five instrument-playing brothers, also played tuba in the Marine Band and string bass in the orchestra.

After retiring from the Marine Corps in 1964, Saverino continued performing, mostly as a jazz bassist, in the Washington, D.C., area and restoring Italian string instruments for a few of his friends and for his own collection. Most of his string basses are from the 1600-1750 period; one, a 1560 Gasparo Da Salo, required five years to restore.

Saverino’s compositions and arrangements embrace a variety of styles and performance media. His concertos include works for alto saxophone, French horn, oboe, harp, trombone, trumpet, and violin. Among his tone poems are Mood Moderne and Ode to a Memory. Most of his band arrangements are from the classical or romantic orchestral literature. Among his 200 published and unpublished marches (twenty-one in 1943 alone) are the following which were issued by Belwin during World War II: The Colonel’s March; The Leather-necks; March of the Women Marines; Men of Action; Post Exchange; Post Medical Officer; Post Quartermaster; and Pride of the Corps. With the ability to visualize a complete score in a very short time, Saverino found the task of notating all of the parts very laborious. His last score (completed overnight) was for segments of a Federal Aviation Agency movie titled In These Hands.

In addition to visualizing new scores very quickly, Saverino has the ability to hear and notate recorded music. During World War II President Truman once asked Col. Santelmann if the Marine Band could perform a favorite tune of his which was on a record made by a Hollywood orchestra and choir. The band did not have the music in its library, but, thanks to Sgt. Saverino, the complete score was ready the next day; he had copied all of the parts from the record during the night.

Saverino described himself as “an ordinary musician to whom God gave a little talent.” On July 28, 1984, this man of “little talent” was inducted into the Windber Area Hall of Fame for his years of helping to enrich the lives of others through his music. In 1988 his achievements were recorded in the International Who’s Who of Intellectuals.


Works for Winds


Resources

  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 527-8