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Orion R. Farrar

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Orion R. Farrar


Orion R. Farrar (April 1866, Indianapolis, Ind. - 1920?) was an American composer, conductor and teacher.

Farra's father, John, a shoemaker who was born in England (February 23, 1840), migrated to America, where he met and married Amanda, born in Indiana (1841). A year after Orion’s birth the Farrar family moved to Warren, Ohio, where the young musician completed high school and, at the age of 19, enrolled in Dana’s Musical Institute, later (since 1941) known as the Dana School of Music of Youngstown State University. Farrar enrolled in the four-year course and earned diplomas in music theory, composition, and cornet. After graduation he stayed at the school as a faculty member and bandmaster for seven years. Frederick, the Farrars’ first son, was born in Warren in September 1893. For a time Farrar, his wife (born Sarah Kennedy on January 24, 1869), and their son, Frederick, lived with his parents and his sister, Ora, in Warren. In 1896 a move was made to Indiana, where Farrar organized and conducted the Indiana State Band (not affiliated with the college).

In July 1899, Orion Farrar became conductor of the Youngstown Military Band, a 60-member organization which often imported nationally famous soloists to perform in the local concerts. According to a lengthy report in the May 13, 1900, Youngstown Vindicator, the young conductor possessed “artistic qualities which very few musicians can show. He has continued to increase the strength of the band from month to month in both its personnel and instrumentation until today it ranks as the foremost in the West.” The band’s ensemble playing was considered “almost perfect,” and the programs “of the very best, including all the leading classic and modern compositions that it is possible to render with a complete military band instrumentation.” Records show that Farrar was a Mason from the time of his initiation into Old Erie Lodge No. 3 in 1894 until he was dropped from membership for non-payment of dues in 1909, and that he was reportedly conductor of the Lima (Ohio) Municipal Band in 1915. No notice of subsequent activity or of death has been found. It is not known where or when Farrar died.

Farrar wrote most of his marches around the turn of the century. His music was melodious, well-written, and playable by the amateur bands with which he worked. In addition to Bombasto and Indiana State Band, which are still very popular, the National Concert Band of America and the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Band recorded the following for the Heritage of the March series: Aithotas (1895), Banner of Freedom (1901), Col. Roosevelt’s Galop (1898), Columbiana (1902), and Fort Frayne (1901). Others works include the overture Northeastern Ohio Band Association (1891) and the marches Americus, Canton Warren (1897), and D.M.I. (Dana Military Institute, 1898).

Works for Winds


  • Martin, Michael D. "The Strange Case of O. R. Farrar: A Mystery Partially Solved." Journal of Band Research 40, no. 1 (Fall 2004), pp. 80-89.
  • Marisa Minich, Warren-Trumbull County (Ohio) Public Library, personal correspondence
  • Smith, Norman E. (1986). March Music Notes. Lake Charles, La.: Program Note Press, pp. 131.
  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 200-201