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F.E. Bigelow

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F.E. Bigelow

Biography

Frederick Ellsworth Bigelow (20 August 1873, Ashland, Mass. – 23 May 1929, Salem, Mass.) was an American composer.

Bigelow learned to play both clarinet and saxophone early in his life; his four brothers also became outstanding instrumentalists. After completing Ashland High School, he went to Worcester Academy, where he studied music with Joseph Monisette. He then earned a Ph.D. degree at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston before settling in Salem. For 15 years Bigelow was head pharmacist at a drug store operated by George N. Harris. In May 1913 he opened the Forest River Pharmacy. He later sold his drug business and entered the service of the Salem Gas Co.

From 1892 until 1894, Bigelow played in the Ashland, Massachusetts, “Brass” Band, directed by Joseph Morrisette. In 1894 he became a lifetime member of the famous Salem Cadet Band, directed at that time by Jean Missud. He reportedly made a voyage to London with the Salem Band in 1896 in order to play a command appearance for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. In addition to the well-known Our Director March, Bigelow wrote the Battle Song of Liberty, Our Leader March and NC-4 March. The latter piece was in honor of the first transatlantic flight (completed on May 27, 1919, in a Curtiss NC-4 seaplane commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Albert C. Read). Bigelow reportedly wrote a number of other marches, all of which were premiered at the Sunday concerts of the Salem Cadet Band.

As a retired druggist and member of the band and orchestra in Salem, Bigelow was known by hundreds of the local residents. He was also a member of the Essex Lodge, John Endicott Lodge, A.W.U.W., the Now and Then Association, the Sutton Lodge of Perfection, Lynn local of the Musicians’ Union, the Salem Gas Light Employees’ Association, and several other organizations. After a long illness, Bigelow died in Salem in 1929.

Bigelow is remembered primarily for composing the Our Director March in 1892. The trio of this march has been used as a school song by hundreds of schools and colleges across the United States. By 1914 the march had become so popular that the publisher Walter Jacobs purchased Jean Missud’s complete catalogue in order to obtain the one title.


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