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Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Richard I. Schwartz

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Well-known Soloists from All Walks of Life

Saint Elmore Dodd

He started his musical training in 1893. He played violin, piano, cello, string bass, and all of the instruments of the brass family. He was also a composer, but his primary fame came as an Eb cornet soloist and conductor of many bands and performing organizations on the minstrel circuit at the turn of the century. A multi-talented musician, he played string bass at the Vendome Theater in Nashville, Tennessee, and in 1898, he played Eb cornet with the famous Richards and Pringles’, Rusco & Holland’s Big Minstrel Festival. The Festival toured three states by that time and was on its way to the south. It continued to tour the country with Dodd on Eb for at least a year. He was known for a range of six C’s on the Eb Cornet! (The Freeman, 29 December 1900).

It was in the end of July 1898 that all of the musicians of the Minstrel Festival were invited to the C. G. CONN Company to see the plant at Elkhart, Indiana. S. E. Dodd bought a gold plated cornet from the company during this visit, paying $100.00. They must have all been doing quite well. The group met Jules Levy during the visit, and he performed several selections for them. Dodd led the second band of the Festival in October 1899 and became a stagehand during the middle of November 1899.

In June 1900, he was the Eb cornetist with the Rusco and Holland Company, and in October of the same year, Eb cornetist and leader of the band and orchestra for the Nashville Students. He closed with the Nashville Students and Gideon Minstrels in early March, 1901 and "invites offers from responsible managers"(The Freeman, 9 March 1901). He played Eb cornet with the Black Patti Company in Chicago in late March 1901, and in June and July of the same year, he played Eb cornet and conducted the band and orchestra for the Harrison Brothers’ Minstrels on tour in Kentucky and Michigan. In Michigan, the band received new uniforms, an indication that they were doing quite well. He began in August 1902 to perform with "A Rabbit’s Foot" Company and stayed with them until late 1903, when he performed at the Shelbyville Fair in Shelby county, Kentucky (The Freeman, 19 September 1903). Regards were sent to Dodd in later issues, but this was the last time Dodd’s name was seen as a musician in The Freeman.

Many issues of The Freeman from 26 February 1898 to 19 September 1903 were used in preparation of this entry. The author of this document did not find Dodd’s name in The Freeman through the year 1916.

John Dolan

(b Schuyler Falls, NY 27 Jan 1875; d Staten Island, NY 8 Apr 1942)

At the age of fourteen, Dolan left home for the circus to be an acrobat. There he first learned to play the violin and then the cornet. A self-taught musician, Dolan eventually played with the circus band. After later serving in an Army band in the Spanish American War, he re-enlisted to continue his service in the band on Governor’s Island. He left the Army in 1902 to free-lance in New York City. In 1907, he joined Conway’s Band as first chair cornet and soloist. With this band he performed solos at the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco. He became first chair cornetist and soloist with Sousa’s Band in the 1919-1920 season. Richard Stross, cornet soloist, began playing with Sousa during the summer of 1920. He had a most remarkable embouchure, as he was called the "High Note King" and "Lip Trill King." Stross was dropped, however, after only one season (Schwartz 1957, 286). After Sousa injured his arm as a result of an accident on one of his horses in 1921, Dolan conducted the Band on a brief tour of the Eastern United States. With a range extending to g3, Dolan would often play a set of variations on a march strain as the band played the march itself. Dolan played with the band until September 1928, until he had a violent argument with Sousa, and never returned to his band (Bierley 2003). Herbert L. Clarke was the only cornetist that played with Sousa for a longer time than Dolan. He was a consummate performer, practiced long and regularly, had impeccable tongue and finger technique, and a beautiful soft tone. After leaving Sousa, Dolan played for a brief time with Barrerre’s Little Symphony, and continued to practice until the latter part of his life.

Dolan recorded with Conway’s Band for the Okeh Record Company and for Victor. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 39-41) and Bands of America (Schwartz 1957, 286).

Walter Emerson

(b New Bedford, MA 19 Mar 1856; d Boston, MA 2 June 1893)

Bridges mentions that Emerson's "real" name was Macy (Bridges [1972], 41]. Although the reference is somewhat unclear, it is likely that Macy was his last name at birth, since his mother married George Emerson when Walter was five years old. He began his musical training on the bugle, memorizing over two hundred bugle calls (Bridges [1972], 41). His first study of the cornet, however, and performances in bands and orchestras began at age fifteen. He may have been a pupil of Henry C. Brown and L. S. Batchelder of Boston. Patrick S. Gilmore hired Emerson as cornet soloist in 1878 to replace Matthew Arbuckle for a tour to Europe. Emerson at this time was "only twenty-four years old but a finished artist" (Schwartz 1957, 108, 115). Tom Baldwin of Boston, a friend of Gilmore’s, recommended Emerson to Patrick Gilmore. Arbuckle could not travel to England as he was, to say the least, not in good standing with the British government. He had deserted the British Army years before. Emerson was praised by the New York Herald, the Edinburgh Courant, and Le Figaro as a brilliant virtuoso. He was "as Gilmore observed…the first great native American cornet soloist to become well known abroad" (Noble 1964, 21). Later he was one of the first cornet soloists to make phonograph recordings. With both Levy and Arbuckle eventually leaving Gilmore’s band, Bent and Macy took up the slack. Emerson performed solo cornet with Gilmore until 1881, when he left to engage in a solo career. He had a repertoire of over 300 memorized solos. He performed solos with Baldwin’s Cadet of Boston, Reeves’ American Band of Providence, the Germania Band of Boston, Carlberg’s Orchestra, Dietrich’s Orchestra of New York, the Barbaree Concert Company, Thomas’ Symphony Orchestra, and his own Concert Company. Two of his cornet solos appears in Chapter 4 of this document. Emerson, as he was called, may have made some cylinder recordings, but their location was not known in 1971 (Bridges [1972], 42). Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 41-42), Bands of America (Schwartz 1957, 108, 115), and The Psychology of Cornet and Trumpet Playing (Noble 1964, 20-21).

Mace Gay

(b Stoughton, MA 28 Apr 1855; d Brockton, MA 15 Mar 1935)

At age fifteen, Gay’s first musical studies were on the violin, but soon afterward he began practicing cornet. A student of Henry C. Brown, Gay began touring New England and eastern Canada with the Neil Burgess Minstrel Company. He then came home to play with the Randolph Brass Band and became cornet soloist in 1875 with the Society Orchestra of New England (also known as Porter’s Orchestra of Brockton). Between 1876 and 1880, Gay played solo cornet with Baldwin’s Cadet Band of Boston and occasionally he was a soloist with Reeves’ Band of Providence. Only twenty-one years old at the time of joining Baldwin’s Cadet Band, Gay watched as Innes would play some of Levy’s solos on the trombone (Schwartz 1957, 98). In the fall of 1880, he was selected to be the leader of the Martland Band of Brockton and stayed with the band for over fifty-five years. It performed concerts in Highland Park for nine seasons, at Nantasket Beach for over twenty years, and occasionally in Paragon Park. It was also the regimental band of the Eighth Massachusetts Infantry. Among cornet soloists with the band over the years were Milo Burke, Ernest Williams, and Walter Smith. In 1901, the band won first prize and a silver trimmed cut glass pitcher. He, as a result, became the director of the consolidated bands for the Brockton Fair, and in 1907, was given a gold medal by the Board of Directors of the Fair.

Mace Gay won the first prize at a solo contest in 1885, playing the Carnival of Venice by John Hartmann. The contest was held at Nantasket Beach and among the judges were Reeves and Dodworth. In 1883, Gay played with the Burgess Minstrels for only one season after which he primarily stayed in New England. Gay was an arranger of band music and also publisher. He was known to use Arban’s Grand Méthode in his instruction during band rehearsals. Reeves, Hall, and Gay were all of the opinion that a band should sound as good on the streets as it does in the concert hall.

Gay was a fine and prolific teacher, having taught almost 800 students in his life. He produced names such as Walter M. Smith and Kitty Rankin (Katherine Williams). He had conducted the Fifth Massachusetts Regimental Band for twelve years, and had played bugle with the old Second Brigade of Boston. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 42-43), The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 272), and Bands of America (Schwartz 1957, 98).

John A. Greenwood

(b Winsford, England 1876; d England 1953)

He began to study the cornet with his father, at ten years of age, and by the age of eighteen, he was playing solo cornet with the Gossages Soap Works Band conducted by William Rimmer. In 1899, he was offered solo cornet with the New Brighton Tower Band and began to study harmony and counterpoint. After the Brighton Band broke up due to lack of money, he performed with various groups under the batons of William Rimmer, John Gladney, and Alexander Owen.

John A. Greenwood had become conductor of St. Hilda’s Colliery Band shortly after 1905, and (with a hiatus in between) in 1908, the group began to receive honors at major band contests in England at the prestigious Crystal Palace. St. Hilda’s Colliery Band was begun and conducted in 1869 by John Dennison. Dennison’s ten year old son became solo cornetist with the band at its inception. New instruments were procured very quickly and the band had begun to win contests in a short time. In 1914, Greenwood conducted the Black Dyke Band and received an award at the Belle Vue September Contest. He led the Horwich Railway Mechanics Institute Band to become runner-up in the Belle Vue September band contests of 1915. The band received first place in 1916, 1917, and 1922. In 1925, his Cresswell Colliery Band won at Belle Vue, and in the same year his Marsden Colliery Band won at Crystal Palace

After WW II, he spent most of his time arranging, composing, and adjudicating. He was a judge at the Empress Hall Championships the last year of his life. He was a prolific composer for the band, writing hundreds of compositions for the ensemble. His most famous marches being the Black Dyke March, the Winsford March , the Irwell Springs March and the Foden’s Own March, all named after famous British Bands. Information for this entry appears in Brass Roots: A Hundred Years of Brass Bands and Their Music, 1836-1936 (Newsome 1998; 127, 131-132, 156) and March Music Notes (Smith 1991, 167-8).

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