William  Revelli
Director of Bands

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


While in High School in Evanston, Illinois (1964-68), I participated in most of the musical groups.  I sang in the various choruses and ensembles, and played bassoon in the bands and the orchestra.  I was also the music librarian!  The rehearsal rooms and music offices were next to the auditorium, and I truly lived at that end of the building.  Upon graduation, they gave me a small plaque of appreciation
— the first of its kind, and, to the best of my knowledge, still unique.  [To see a photo, click here.]  It was a terrific experience.  I learned a lot and it formed the basis for the rest of my life.

Grapentine & DuffieDuring that time, one of the band directors was a Michigan graduate, and he persuaded his old mentor, William Revelli, to come and be the guest conductor.  Our director made it clear that we would not really appreciate this special event until much later, and that turned out to be the case.  We played — presumably well — and continued with our lives and families and careers in many fields.   It was, indeed, a great experience, but for us it was just another highlight.  Only in retrospect do we now understand that this was more.  It was a personal link to the wonder that is The Bandin the very best sense.

 At the end of July of 1991, Revelli appeared with the Wheaton, Illinois, Municipal Band for a concert which was filmed as part of a public television documentary about Sousa.   While he was in the Chicago area, I had the opportunity to speak with him immediately after this event.  As I set up the tape recorder, he asked if I knew Carl Grapentine, his own stadium announcer.  I was glad to tell the conductor that Carl was on the staff of WNIB, Classical 97 (1990-1996), the station where I was employed (1975-2001).  This pleased him, and he related a brief story...

Carl was an oboe in my band when we went to Europe my last year.  I auditioned him for the job, and for announcing at our stadium.  The way I do that is to have them go up into the stadium while I stand down on the fifty yard line and have him announce as I listen.  We had five of them try out, and after he come on I listened to the other two [laughs] but I’d already said, “This is the voice I want.”  He’s a good boy.

Revelli retired from Michigan in 1971, but as I put together this website presentation (2013), Carl still goes back on Saturdays during the football season to do the announcing. 

Besides Sousa and other band-specific topics, Revelli spoke with me about many things.  Here is that conversation . . . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:    With the great popularity of bands in high schools and colleges all over the country, why are there no professional bands, like there are professional symphony orchestras?

William Revelli:    You’re absolutely right in that there aren’t any.  There was a time when we had the Sousa Band, but during that time there were other fine professional bands that people don’t talk about.  They weren’t as popular as the Sousa Band, but the predecessor was Patrick Gilmore.  He was called
“The Irish Orpheus.  He had a larger band than Sousa had and he traveled all over the world with it.  In fact, he was also a tremendous showman.  In Boston Commons, down in the commons there, he had a festival with a two thousand piece band.  There were over a thousand anvils from the fire department and everything else in Boston doing The Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore.  This is the kind of showman he was.  He built a big palladium for his concerts, but it flopped.  People didn’t come.  I don’t know why that was, and I believe finally it burned down.  That was the predecessor of Sousa.  Then during Sousa’s later years there was Patrick Conway, Creatore, Innes, and Liberati.  They were about forty-five or fifty-piece bands that traveled all over the United States.  They never went to Europe, but Sousa made five or six world tours with his band.  People don’t know about that.

revelliBD:    Why do we remember Sousa and not these others?

WR:    His marches.  They played Sousa marches.

BD:    And also transcriptions?

WR:    Yes, oh yes.  Sousa played transcriptions almost exclusively because there wasn’t any original band music except his own.  There is a little story about when he played the first performance of The Victors march by Louis Elbel.  Sousa and his band were there to do a concert on campus and the composer gave him the parts.  He played it that night, and the composer says Sousa said, “It was the third greatest march ever written.”  Elbel asked, “What about the other two?” and Sousa said, “Well, I wrote those.”  [Both laugh]  It’s a little story, but he did like the march.  Sousa was never like
The Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, Conductor, or The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Georg Solti, Conductor.  It was Sousa and his band.  Now psychologically that may not mean much to you, but it does, because it was not The Sousa Band.  Sousa was first.  You went to hear Sousa and his band.

BD:    Did he want it that way?

WR:    You bet he did!  In fact, his first band was not
Sousa and his Band.  His first band was The Sousa Band, John Philip Sousa, Conductor.  Blakeley, who was his manager, was a very astute man.  John Philip Sousa can give great credit to Mr. Blakely, believe me!  He was a Barnum.  He knew how to sell, and he did.  Sousa listened to him, too, believe me.  I don’t think Sousa himself could have done that.  I often thought that Dr. Goldman, with the Goldman Band, made a mistake by trying to do it himself.  He never had a manager that sold the Goldman Band.  He did it himself.  But if he’d had a Blakeley, he could have done it.

BD:    Is this what you spent thirty-six years in Michigan doing
selling band music?

WR:    Well, indirectly.  By that I mean every single student that I conducted that was a music major that went out to conduct high school bands or trade school bands, junior high bands, college bands.  I was a disciple, in a way, for bands and band music and better band music.  So I think yes, that indirectly I am responsible for a great emphasis in the band world.  I’m bragging a bit, but I’m doing it because I believe in it.  We have, for instance, the American Bandmasters Association, which is a very elite group of band conductors.  You cannot apply for admission to it.  You have to be nominated and elected to it, and it’s pretty severe.  And there’s more Michigan men who have succeeded in becoming members of the ABA than any other.  There are more university band directors in America that are from Michigan.  We sold the band program
not municipal bands but college bands.  To answer your question about where are the professional bands, there aren’t any.  There were in those days.  One of the few remaining professional bands that no longer has a budget was the Long Beach Band which Herb Clarke conducted for years.  He was the solo cornetist for the Sousa Band for many years, and assistant conductor for Sousa.  If you ask me why they are no more, it’s money.  I ask you why is there only one symphony orchestra in New York City?

revelliBD:    But there IS a symphony, and there are chamber groups and opera companies, but no band!

WR:    No, not since the Goldman Band.  There’s nobody to fund it.

BD:    Should we try to get this kind of thing going?

WR:    Yes we certainly should, and tonight was an example of the image of what I could see as the true municipal band.  Those people had a great night of enjoyment.  They appreciated it.  That was evidenced by their response.  They had a good time.

BD:    So now you have automatically two thousand band boosters right there.

WR:    Exactly.  We need that in the United States; we need ten thousand Wheatons.  You’d be surprised...  I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but the revival of the community band is astonishing.  For instance, let’s take Michigan alone.  Ten years ago there weren’t more than four or five community bands in the state of Michigan that you’d want to hear.  Today there’s fifty.

BD:    Now you say “that you want to hear.”  In other words, they’ve gotten up to a certain level?

WR:    Their performance standard is such that you enjoy going to the concert and it’s not claptrap.  The concert this evening had some very good repertoire in it.  The young college band director is averse to doing transcriptions.  They want original material and I’m for that, but because it’s new and original doesn’t mean it’s good, or that old music is bad.

BD:    Shouldn’t there be a balance of some new things and some transcriptions?

WR:    Of course.  Now you’re talking!  You see, back in Sousa’s day ninety per cent of the music was transcriptions because there wasn’t any original band music.  The only band music that you found that was original was his!  He didn’t just write marches; he wrote suites.

BD:    Is there any kind of correlation between what Sousa did for the band and what Kreisler did for the violin?

WR:    Very much so.  That’s a very good analogy with Kreisler.  People, including me when I was a kid, went to hear his encores...  Schoen Rosemarie, Liebesfreud, Old Vienna and all those little encores.  [Begins to sing one of them softly]  We went to hear them.  It’s like Horowitz.  There was no way Horowitz could ever end a concert without playing Traumerei.  There was no way he was going to get off that stage!  Now, if you’re going to play Sousa you’d better play Stars and Stripes because they’re going to insist on it.  Sousa was not only a legend, but he made a big contribution and will continue to do so.  For instance, there’s been thousands of marches written since Sousa died... thousands, and where are they?  They are no different than the pop tunes that last three months.

BD:    What is it about a Sousa march that lasts?

WR:    It’s not the form.  It’s a four-bar introduction to sixteen or thirty-two bars, a break-up strain and back again.  It is sonata form.  Stars and Stripes is the longest march he wrote.  It has more measures in it than the rest of them.  He wrote a melody that you could hear a couple of times and sing.

BD:    But you don’t get tired of it.

WR:    Yes, because it’s good.  You bet.  Rhythmically, harmonically, the structure of it; he was a master at putting the voices where they belong.  Color.  And he never once played them the way he wrote them.  We have men going around the country saying, “This is the way Sousa played his marches.”  They must have never heard him.  I heard him twenty-six times!  There’s a young man here from the research center and he showed me some parts of an encore book of Sousa.  There’s Herbert Clarke’s cornet part in which he says, “First strain, tacit.”  I’ve been doing that for fifty years!  I was so proud to see that today because I’ve been doing that all along!  Here was the original Herbert Clarke cornet part with the Sousa Band encore stating, “Tacit, first time, enter second time.”  That’s all the editing.  It’s not written that way.  For instance one time I heard the piccolo variation on the harp.  I heard Bill Bell do it on the tuba with the Sousa Band.  [Sings]  He got the trills in there on his tuba clear as a bell!  That was Sousa.  He was never satisfied.  I asked him if he would object to my editing his marches and he said, “Have you heard my band?”  I said, “Twenty-six times.”  He was very abrupt at these kind of things and said, “Do I edit them?”  I said, “You never play them the way they’re written.”  He said, “Well, that’s editing.”   Then he said, “As long as you don’t change the melody and you don’t change the harmony and you do not change the rhythm, you can do what you want with the color of it.  If I like it, I’ll accept it.  If I don’t, I’ll tell you so.”  But he was constantly changing his ways of presenting the color.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    What advice do you have for someone who wants to write music for the concert band?

WR:    My first advice would be to write music, the score, for the public that appreciates what the band audiences understand, and which they will receive and accept.  Now let me explain what I’m saying.  There’s a lot of wonderful contemporary music being written.  Unfortunately, it’s not accepted by the public.

revelliBD:    Because of its density?

WR:    Its complication.  It’s complicated.  I ask you, how many new operas will have been presented by the Metropolitan in the last decade?

BD:    Very few at the Met, but hundreds in Europe.  They’re much more experimental over there.

WR:    They sure are.  Not only that, they have the money to do it.

BD:    That’s true.  State subsidy.

WR:    You bet!  The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is eighty-five per cent subsidized by the government.  How much does the New York Philharmonic get?  Zero from the government.

BD:    Maybe one per cent from the National Endowment, and that’s it.

WR:    That’s right, and that’s being cut considerably.  So there’s the difference.  It’s the sense of values.  There are more little small town opera companies that you don’t particularly enjoy all the time.  [Laughs]  They’re broken down singers of the past or they’re aspiring young artists with a little tiny orchestra in the pit, but they’re still playing Verdi and Aïda and so on.  The Italians were brought up on that; that’s their history, whereas in Germany it was Beethoven and Brahms, and in Russia it was Tchaikovsky and so on.  But the band, the voice of the band is truly Americana since the Revolutionary War.  It’s rather interesting, too, that where the band really began was in the New England states.  I don’t like to say it, but it’s a fact that the worst bands in schools in the United States are where the band was born, in New England.  They don’t support it.

BD:    You’re talking about support and what you think is important.  Let me ask the great big philosophical question
what is the purpose of music in society?

WR:    I think it has three or four purposes.  One of the handicaps for the band is it has become traditionally known as an entertaining medium because of its tremendous versatility.  Unlike the orchestra, the band can play in all kinds of occasions.  It can march, it can play for the Fourth of July Celebration parade, it can play for a military parade, it can play at a gridiron, it can play in a basketball tournament, it can play in at a hockey game, they can play everywhere.  That’s number one.  It’s an entertainment kind of a medium.  In fact, take the high schools.  Many times they threaten to take out the band and sports.  The band’s been related to sports, and that always hurts me.  I said, “What’s it got to do with sports?”  Well, because it plays at the half-time, and the people’ll say, “We won’t have a band for halftime!  We’ve got to have a band!”  That was one point.  The other is the educational features of it.  It has tremendous educational value.  I’ve been to Japan three times and helped them get their band started.  You want to watch this program in Japan.  It’s coming.  They don’t just make Sonys and Yamaha motorcycles and so on.  They’re spending a tremendous amount of money on the youth and music in Japan, in the public schools!  So the purposes and the objectives of the band program are many.  Let’s take an example.  School starts in September.  What’s the band director’s first obligation?  To get that band ready for that first football game!  He better have it there!  The board of education and administration say, “You will have it there.”  When I went to Hobart, Indiana, they’d never had a band and no instrumental program at all.  I went to the superintendent, Mr. Dickey, after school had started a couple of weeks and asked his permission to organize an instrumental program.  Now he was a Hoosier, brought up in Hoosier-land and he said, “We have some problems.  Number one is that there’s no place to rehearse.  Every room’s taken with classes.  The schedule’s already made, so there’s no time for rehearsal.  Classes are scheduled.  And there’s no budget.”  But he said, “Go right ahead.  If you can get it started, find a place to rehearse, find a time for rehearsals, you have my permission to begin.”  He added, “By the way, I think it would be wonderful.”  Now this is an educator, a superintendent, who said “I think it would be wonderful if we could have five or six kids play for the basketball games.”  That’s his concept of what music education was about!  I went out of his office quite disappointed.  Finally I said, “Wait a minute.  You got what you asked for.  He gave you his blessing to start it.”  We rehearse at seven o’clock in the morning in the chemistry lab because the professor and a teacher of chemistry was a good friend of mine.  We had to move everything out and put it back, and oh God get every instrument out of the attic and rent some others from the Chicago Instrument Company.  But we got started.  That’s the way we started!  Remember, while you’re out on a gridiron getting that band ready for that first game, the orchestra conductor’s already got the orchestra in the rehearsal room playing, maybe, a Beethoven symphony or a Haydn symphony
or whatever — so, education-wise, the band has been at a disadvantage.  Its very versatility has been its greatest enemy.  Because it can do everything in so many places, they use it.  It’s a window-dresser for the community!

BD:    Where should the balance be, then, between the entertainment and some kind of artistic achievement?

revelliWR:    That’s a good question, and the answer is that if the conductor is truly a serious musician and he’s an educator, he will have both.  There’s no reason in the world that a football band has to play badly.  That’s the conductor
s responsibility.  My men — and women, laterin the Michigan marching band hated my guts when I would work them hard before the last game of the season.  We’re playing on national television the next day and we hadn’t been through the show once completely without stopping.  It’s snowing, it’s cold, it’s the last game and Revelli’s stopping that band and tuning it and trying to get it together!  They’re frozen!  They’re so cold, the valves are cold, their fingers are cold, and Revelli’s saying, “The third cornet, let’s hear you.”  They said, “This guy’s impossible!”  Then we would play and the audience would receive us they way they did, and they were so proud.  They knew it was good.  Then Revelli was okay, you see.  So that was that.  There you are.  I told them, “The C-natural on your trumpet, half-note, forte, is no different; you don’t read it any different, you don’t play it any differently than you would if you were playing with the symphony at Carnegie Hall.”  You’ve got to approach it that way.  You don’t just blow your brains out on a gridiron because everybody’s up, up, up, rah, rah, rah.  I don’t go for that.  The tone of my concert band and the symphony band, at least the objective was not different.  It was educational all the way down the line.  I know so many bands just blow, you know.  There’s no musicianship about it, not even the intent at being musical.

BD:    So is this your advice, then, for people who want to conduct bands, is to be musicians first?

WR:    First, yes.  In fact, I would like to see that the emphasis in the music education field be placed upon performance for four years.  Every one of these band conductors would go through a very rigid performance program.  I did it.  I never got a music education degree until after I had my performance degree.  I played seven years professionally before I ever took a course in music education.  I passed about nine-tenths of the courses for music ed without even going to class.  I took the exams for placement on performance, playing, history and theory.  I never had any problems with that. 

BD:    You started out on violin.

WR:    I am a violinist.  I never played anything else.  Sousa was a violinist.

BD:    [With a gentle nudge]  Then why didn’t you organize the world’s greatest string quartet instead of the world’s greatest band?

WR:    [With a big smile]  Because I love the band.

BD:    They why didn’t you play cornet?

WR:    I didn’t think that made any difference.  Fact of the matter is, let me ask you what is Solti’s background?  [See my Interviews with Sir Georg Solti.]

BD:    Piano.

WR:    Well, why didn’t he play a violin?  He’s an orchestra conductor.  Why was he a pianist?  What is the difference?  What was Toscanini?  He was a cellist.  Saul Caston, conductor of the Denver Symphony was a trumpet player.  [As if giving the interviewer an oral exam]  What was Eugene Ormandy?

BD:    [Responding correctly]  A violinist, I believe.

WR:    Where’d he play?

BD:    He started in Hungary.

WR:    Right.  He had a manager that came over to the U.S. and told him he had a big concert tour, but he never had a date.  Gene couldn’t find a place to play, so he auditioned for the Capitol Theater where a friend of his was conductor.  He never played first violin in any major orchestra.  I think that first of all a conductor has to be a good musician.  I don’t think you can be a bad musician and be a good conductor.  There are many, many wonderful musicians who would be awful conductors and vice versa.  Why is it that with all the great violinists we have in the major orchestras, who’ve had twenty-five years experience of playing every symphony in the repertoire, why aren’t they conductors?  You can use another analogy
some of the greatest baseball players became awful managers.  They were flops.  Bob Zuppke never played a football game, but he was just one of the great coaches of Illinois.  Fielding H. Yost was never a great player.  He never played football very much.  Conducting is a talent. There are so many areas of conducting that you’ve got to be a good musician.  You’ve got to have an ear, for instance.  You have to have a good ear to be a conductor.  If you’ve got a bad ear, forget it!  [Both laugh]  And I’ve had folks like that.  I wish I could conduct with the stick like they did, but they can’t hear anything.  God, the band plays all out of tune and they’re making beautiful motions.  I had a student in my conducting class who wouldn’t believe this.  He was a kind of an ego, and he made the most beautiful gestures.  [Demonstrates]  So I thought, how am I going to reach this guy?  He had an ear like a sock.  He can’t hear anything!  I have to reach him.  I have to make him believe.  So I deliberately had the oboe player play the English Horn part.  The oboe’s in C and the English horn’s in F. so it’s a fourth off.  He played the whole solo and the guy was conducting.  When he got all through, I said, “Tell me what was wrong with this.”  “Well, I thought they didn’t make enough crescendo here.  I thought they—”  I said, “Now just hold everything.  I don’t want to do this...” but I did it.  “It’s about time you realized where your weaknesses are.  We’ve got to do something about it.  He’s playing the English Horn part.  He’s a fourth off.  Every C he played was an F, and you never heard it.  You played accompaniment underneath it.  It was awful!”

BD:    Did he fix his problem or is he selling insurance now?

WR:    Well, he’s not selling insurance, but he’s not in music.  He’s done very well, incidentally.  I’m guilty of changing some students into the other professions.  One is now a wonderful dentist.  He’s got some of the best clients in Cleveland there are.  Big people.  He was in music ed, but he had nothing.

BD:    So you told him to get the heck out of music?

WR:    Well, I didn’t do it quite that way.  I said, “I’m going to find out” because he was bright.  So I went to the registrar and looked at his transcript.  He had straight As in everything!  Mathematics, history, English, so on, and he had Cs in music.  No band director ever gives a C in music!  They only know one letter in the alphabet, and it’s A.  Everybody gets an A!  You get an A if you’re there and if you can breathe.  Anyway, I called him in and I said, “Let’s have a talk here.”  He was a freshman so it was not too late.  I said, “You don’t have to quit.  We’ve got seven bands, and this is a place for those kinds of bands.  But I think it’s time to switch before it’s too late.”  That man has thanked me and sends me wonderful gifts at Christmas!  He said, “Thank you, Dr. Revelli.  When I think of what I might have been... such a misfit!  I really wasn’t that much interested in it anyway.”  Well, there you are.  I was doing a clinic at Missouri and I got there a little early and the teachers in the high school were having their coffee break.  I just couldn’t find the band director, so I walked in and I asked if he was there.  No, he wasn’t there.  I sat down and one of them started talking with me.  I said, “What do you teach?”  He said, “Math.”  I asked another one, and she taught English.  I asked another one, and then one of them asked me, “What do you teach?”  I said, “I teach people.”  You should have seem them.  There were about ten of them and they all seemed to think, “Who is this nut? This guy is crazy.”  [Both laugh] 
Finally one said to me out loud, “What’d you say?”  I said, “I teach people.”  “What do you mean?” he asked, and I said, “Well, through music.  I happen to be a conductor and a teacher and a musician.”

BD:    Is that what you do every time you get on the podium
teach the people both in front of you and behind you?

WR:    Every time.  Every time.  I am a teacher.  Toscanini was the greatest teacher I’ve ever known.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Are you optimistic about the future of band music in America?

revelliWR:    I’m highly optimistic about it.  I have never been more thrilled and more confident and overjoyed with what I see.  I’m disappointed in many things in the music education field, and in the bands in the schools I am very disappointed, but more than ever in my life I’m convinced that music education is here to stay.  I have yet to see one program that’s good where they have curtailed it.  But we have so many mediocre ones.  We have so many that are so bad, unfortunately, and they’re the ones that are in jeopardy.  There’s too many of them.

BD:    How is the burgeoning of electronic entertainment
the television and all of thisgoing to help or hinder the advancement of concert music and band music?

WR:    Perhaps this may be one of the most crucial and vital areas that we must be concerned about.  All you have to do is to go to Hollywood.  I have friends who compose for the TV shows and what’s happening is frightening.  The musicians never even see each other.  The strings never see the brass because they’re in two different rooms and they’re recorded at different times.  It’s the electronic age.  It’s unbelievable!  I was in Toronto judging conducting last spring, and I happened to be in the restaurant to get breakfast.  It was crowded, and the table where I was sitting was for two, and it was the only empty chair in the restaurant.  A young Japanese man came in.  He was looking and couldn’t find a place to sit.  So I said, “Sir, if you would like, you may join me.  This seat is available.”  So he sat down and we got acquainted.  He was very intelligent, about thirty-five years-old and in the computer business.  I’ve never met a more alert, intelligent, interesting, fascinating man.  I said, “What a fascinating field you’re in.”  “Yes,” he says, “It’s also the most competitive.  How would you like to be president of a corporation that has a fifty million-dollar inventory that may be obsolete tomorrow morning?  That’s the field I’m in.”

BD:    Do you think the band will ever be obsolete?

WR:    I don’t think so any more than the orchestra would.  Do you think that a singer will ever be obsolete?  A singer like Pavarotti or Domingo, or whatever great singer?

BD:    I hope not.  [Laughs]

WR:    Who’s going to produce the original sound?

BD:    Probably some electronic gizmo invented by the Japanese fellow that you had lunch with.

WR:    That will duplicate the human voice?

BD:    Right.

WR:    Well, you could be right.  We kept on talking.  They also make synthesizers, so I told him about a guest-conducting engagement where I wanted to play a certain piece but the second oboe just wasn’t good enough.  I mentioned that to the Dean and he said, “We can fix that.”  He went over and got his arranger, a young man, a very sharp young fellow, and he sat at the synthesizer and played the second oboe part.  He never missed a note.  [Both laugh]  He didn’t have to worry about the reed, and all this stuff.  It was in tune, and by golly there were times when I thought it was a real oboe!  The one thing I missed was the nuance.  It was a mechanical thing.  I told the Japanese fellow about this and I said, “It’s the one thing you haven’t done yet, and you’ll never be able to do it!  You can’t duplicate the human end of it.  That’s always going to be mechanical.”  He said, “In what way?” and I said, “Nuance.  You can’t do this on your synthesizer [sings].  You play [sings differently].”  He said, “That’s what you think.  We already have it.  We can do that.  We’ve already done it with the greatest singers.  We recorded them and then we put it on the synthesizer and followed it.  We do it by frequency.  We add the frequency to it and it goes up, and we reduce it and it comes up and down.  You will never know the difference.”  That worried me.  I said, “Oh, my God, really?  Why don’t you have it out?”  He said, “Because we have a fifty million dollar inventory we’ve got to sell.”  He told me the designs on the table were already in for the year 2000, and they’re not like this 1991 model.  They’ve got to sell the old things first.  Their plants are all set up for this and it would cost millions of dollars to re-tool, to say nothing of the existing inventory.  They’ll sell the old ones out and then the new model will come in.  That’s gradual, as long as that inventory is there.  I learned a lot from that young man.  So in response to your question, I don’t think anyone can forecast this.  Would you believe fifteen years ago what’s happened in the CDs?

BD:    Of course not.

WR:    Of course not.  The recording industry is about shot.  Who buys records now?

BD:    Well, the long-playing records are gone.  The compact disks are current.

WR:    Yeah, but I’ve got an inventory of these.  I don’t know what’s going to happen to those.  They’ll probably become collector
s items someday.

BD:    We still have the LPs and we still can play them on the radio, so I’ve got to make sure we can always play those.

WR:    But do you think ten years from now you’ll be doing that?

BD:    I hope so.

WR:    But do you think so?

BD:    [Shrugs]  Flip a coin.

WR:    Well, that’s the same way with music.  Will a symphony orchestra be around in the year 2500?  What’s it going to be?  Where will bands be?  Where will education be?  The one thing that the band has is the appeal to the common man, and there are more common men than there are uncommon men and women.  Tonight the greatest thrill to me was that audience.  That was even greater than the performance.  I mean it.  How many people were there?  Pretty close to two thousand, maybe more.  It was a big crowd and I watched it.  When I conduct I watch.  I look at the faces and I saw what I wanted to see.  I saw the smile.  I saw the receptivity.  I saw the enjoyment.  I saw the attitude of receptivity and it was genuine.  It wasn’t because it’s polite, which some people do when they go to opera.  That’s Americana, so I have great faith in the future of the band.  I think the destiny of it lies in the hands of the conductors, not the players.  The players are there.  There are thousands.  About a half a dozen came to me after the concert and said that they played in the high school band and they’re still playing.  Granted, the majority of the students that graduate from universities never touch their instruments again...

BD:    ...but hopefully, they come to concerts!

WR:    That’s another thing, and that’s encouraging.

Legendary Band Leader William Revelli

July 20, 1994
By Knight-Ridder/Tribune.  [Text only - photo added]

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When the University of Michigan band marched under William Revelli, the lines of musicians had to be straight and smart, the music clear and sharp. Nothing but perfection was good enough.

Mr. Revelli's ability to accomplish that made him a legend in American band music.

revelli"It's very difficult to talk about Bill Revelli except in superlatives," said Allen Britton, dean emeritus of the Michigan School of Music. "He developed the U-M bands into the best in the country. Nothing ever sounded like a Revelli band except a Revelli band."

Mr. Revelli, who retired in 1972 after 36 years as band director, died of heart failure Saturday at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital near Ann Arbor. He was 92.

He remained active on campus and accepted engagements as guest conductor for bands around the world.

He was inducted into the National Band Association Hall of Fame of distinguished conductors in 1981.

In 1989, the Louis Sudler Foundation and the John Philip Sousa Foundation presented him with their Order of Merit.

He was a "Mt. Rushmore figure" in his field, said professor H. Robert Reynolds, a former student who succeeded him as band director in 1975 and continues in the position.

"He was single-handedly responsible for raising the standards everywhere," Reynolds said. "He had a popularity with the general public that was unique, while he was highly respected by the band profession. . . . He deserves to be remembered forever."

Mr. Revelli studied violin and music theory at the Beethoven Conservatory of Music in St. Louis and later the Chicago Musical College and the VanderCook School of Music in Chicago.

His drive for excellence showed early in his career, when he led the band at Hobart (Ind.) High School to six national high school championships from 1929 to 1935.

In 1935, he moved to Michigan as director of bands, including the symphony band, with which he toured nationally.

In 1961, he led the symphony band on a 16-week international tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

Survivors include two grandchildren, John Strong and Kimberly Snyder, and two great-grandchildren.

© 1991 Bruce Duffie

This interview was recorded at his hotel on August 1, 1991.  Segments were used (with recordings) on WNIB in 1992 and 1997.  The transcription was made and posted on this website in 2013.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.