The fall season of 1883 was now approaching, and with its approach came the usual forerunners or signs of the annual renewal of seasonal activity in professional music circles, but these no longer held a lure for me. My little taste of life away from home as a professional player in Buffalo with my brother Ed was only a slight one to be sure, yet somehow it seemed to have cooled my ardor for becoming a great cornet player, and the thought of being just an ordinary cornetist and living at home appealed to me more strongly than the first. Naturally, all boys of fifteen or sixteen years of age like to get away from home restrictions and have their own way; they like doing exactly as they please, with no one to interfere or find fault with them or to adjudge punishment for little things done or not done. The lost is judged under a parental reasoning that no boy of that age ever can or will understand, and probably I was no exception to the rule.
Playing with Ed's combination in Buffalo had given me a month of having my own way in everything, yet without much else to show a result than the horrible homesickness that had hastened me back. I missed having someone to pet me when feeling a bit out of sorts; to see that I was nicely tucked in bed nights, and in the morning at breakfast give me the affectionate words of greeting such as come only from our mothers. Through my short experience on the road I had learned to reason with myself in a way, therefore it did not require any great effort of will for me to decide not to go out again with the Baker and Farron Comedy Company in the coming season; instead I decided to stay at home and go to school. So when the term opened in September I re-entered school with the determination to learn something that should stand me in good stead for the future, and devoted myself to hard study with the hope of graduating as one of the best. I really did work hard, and my efforts were rewarded in the following summer by graduating as one of the three highest students.
I played the cornet occasionally throughout the winters of 1883 and 1884, still holding my position in the Queen's Own Regimental Band, attending rehearsals. In its small way my band work was thorough, and recognizing this along with my general improvement, Mr. Bayley (the bandmaster) shortly promoted me to the regular second cornet chair in the band, pushing me ahead of a few "seat-warmers". Thereafter, whenever the band played outside engagements calling for twenty or twenty-five men, I always was selectd for the second cornet part: this gave me an opportunity to earn a little pocket money for myself, as these jobs paid from a dollar to a dollar and a half each.
I also resumed my church work, and began to play songs at the Sunday morning services as offertory solos, which seemed to please. It was not long before quite a few of the church people, as well as friends of my family, began telling me what a "splendid" cornet player I was, even at that age and time. Instead of allowing this well-meant yet unthinking flattery to turn my head, however, and knowing exactly how inefficient I actually was in comparison with cornet players I had heard, I paid no attention to wat they said. Perhaps I may have done fairly well for a boy of only sixteen years, but as compared with men of real cornet experience I knew that I fell mighty far short of being in their class. However, these friends persisted in telling me that with my "talent" I should apply for solo cornet playing at local concerts, even though I received no remuneration for my services. As the writing of this little point brings to mind the many failures I have known in life who fell because of flattery, I take the liberty of interpolating a bit of genuine philosophy I read the other day, namely: "Talent is a great breeder of laziness, and laziness is one of surest means of destruction!"
I graduated from school in June of 1884, and shortly afterwards my father had a call as organist to a large church in Indianapolis, Indiana. He accepted the offer, and in the following month the entire Clarke family again migrated, this time back to the very city whence it came only a few years before. We had lived in Toronto, Canada, only four years, but even as a boy I grew to love the city which really marked the beginning of my career in the music world. During these four years I had made many friends among boys of my own age, and it was with sincere regret that I was forced to leave.
The day before we left the city I called upon my two dear instructors, Mr. John Bayley (Bandmaster of the Queen's Own Regimental Band) and Dr. F.H. Torrington (Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra), and never shall I forget the kind words of encouragement and advice extended to me by both of these men. It was indeed with a sad heart that I went from Toronto to locate in Indianapolis where I knew scarcely anybody, particularly boy-friends, for I was only nine years old when we left this city before and went to Somerville, Massachusetts.