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Frank A. Fitzgerald

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Frank A. Fitzgerald


Frank A. Fitzgerald (18 March 1861, Watertown, N.Y. – 28 August 1908, Covina, Calif.) was an American cornetist, composer, conductor, educator and administrator,

Fitzgerald enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point around 1877 where he studied cornet with noted cornetist Matthew Arbuckle and instrumentation/harmony with Hermann Voss. He passed the West Point examination for bandmaster in 1880, an achievement which unofficially bestowed upon him the title of Professor of Music.

Around 1884, Fitzgerald was hired by Patrick Gilmore to serve as cornetist with the Gilmore Band (which his teacher, Arbuckle, was a soloist). After playing with the Gilmore Band for four seasons, he moved to Ottawa, Illinois where his family lived.

Upon Fitzgerald’s move to Ottawa, he began solo engagements as cornetist with the Forest City Band in Rockford, Illinois, eventually replacing the director of the band in September of 1888 undoubtedly due to his skills and growing musical reputation. With his growing reputation, he began receiving many flattering offers from communities in the region to direct their local bands. Fitzgerald refused the many offers and continued to direct the Forest City Band.

Fitzgerald's reputation as the leader of the Rockford Bands along with his growing popularity as a cornet soloist gained Fitzgerald a sponsorship with the C.G. Conn company.

After conducting a Civil War song concert in Marshalltown, Iowa, Fitzgerald accepted an offer to serve as the town’s chorus/band leader in 1895. During his time there, Fitzgerald provided lessons on violin, cornet, and mandolin to the students and citizens of Marshalltown.

Near the end of 1895, Fitzgerald accepted an offer to lead the Ancient Order of United Workers (AOUW) band in Cedar Falls. Fitzgerald would eventually leave Marshalltown in 1896 after accepting an additional position with the Knights of Pythais (K.P.) Concert Band of Waterloo. Fitzgerald would resign his position with the K.P. Band after accepting a teaching position with the Iowa State Normal School (now the University of Northern Iowa) for the 1896 academic year. There he served as the first instructor of instrumental music. Fitzgerald led the Cadet Band and founded the Normal Orchestra and Mandolin Club. He also taught lessons on cornet, mandolin, and violin as well as orchestration and music theory.

Fitzgerald’s focus on music education for all students led to his creation of the Normal School Ladies Band in 1904. Fitzgerald recognized the need for instruction on wind and percussion instruments (instead of the usual piano and stringed instruments) for the female students of the Normal School after he observed a ladies band in California. The level of musicianship of the Ladies Band rose in such a short period of time that many towns and organization from Illinois to Iowa requested performances by the band.

Fitzgerald and his family moved to Covina, California, in September 1907 to tend to his orange grove he purchased while on sabbatical during the 1903-1904 academic year. With the Fitzgeralds' arrival in Covina, Fitzgerald was immediately sought out to organize and lead a town band. He politely declined the offer but rather focused his musical attention to building the orchestra program and establishing a band at Covina High School. Fitzgerald created a junior orchestra and band from the upper grammar grades in preparation for their eventual entrance into the senior ensembles.

Before the start of the 1908 academic year, Fitzgerald died tragically in an automobile accident when his car stalled on train tracks in Covina and was struck by a train on August 28, 1908.

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