With all this work (or play!) I still found enough time to arrange music. Each week there was some act appearing at the theatre that needed new orchestrations for its songs and dances, and I had gained much experience from my theatre playing (viola inside, and cornet outside) that made this arranging an easy matter. Besides, if added a few dollars to my pocket book. "Every little bit, added to what you've got makes a little bit more!" This extra money, however, went towards new music. I began to purchase all kinds of instruction books, and new cornet solos with band arrangements, which were needed, as I played a different cornet solo outside each week. All this took money, but my "stock in trade" was increasing, as my repertoire became enlarged, which was necessary should I ever apply for a soloist engagement where different solos were required daily. To be prepared is half the battle! There are many excellent soloists whose repertoires are limited to about ten heavy numbers. and even the arrangements of these few pieces are quite incomplete and in a horrible condition to be accompanied properly. Yet they except soloist's prices when soliciting summer engagements in this capacity.
The winter wore away all too quickly for me, I was so interested in working up a firm foundation in case I might have a better chance later.
I might mention here that brothers Ed and Ern had followed me from Indianapolis to Rochester, and we were all together once more. Ed secured a position as first violin at the theatre with me, but Em's ambition quite outshone mine, for he had developed into a splendid trombone player, playing on his slide trombone all the cornet solos I had practiced. I used to marvel at how he could execute so rapidly on that instrument, and with as much perfection as a cornetist on his. He had the nerve to make a trip to New York and apply to the great Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore for a job in his famous band, and, fortunately for him, he secured it, all through his perseverance and ability to satisfy this wonderful bandmaster. Naturally, I was proud of him, and once more my aspirations turned towards this famous organization. I thought that if my brother should succeed and make a hit, in time his influence might help me to get in Gilmore's Band. Ern was only twenty-one years of age at that time, and it seemed remarkable to me that he had already climbed so high in the performers world as to be associated with the very best players in the country, for Gilmore was noted for engaging the greatest artists in the world, and naturally I classed Ern amongst them. His success encouraged me doubly, and I worked harder than ever.
As the spring approached I was playing quite well, happy all the time. My solo playing was being talked about around town, and one day a leader came to me offering an engagement to play viola at Ontario Beach for the summer, and to act as cornet soloist in addition. As I was to play my solos with an orchestra, this necessitated my procuring orchestral arrangements for all my numbers. I purchased quite a few, and had to arrange some that were not available in this form. More expense, just then, but my "stock" was increasing, becoming more valuable to me than money.
It often amuses me when I hear musicians kicking about buying new music, hating to spend a few dollars on what would later repay them a hundred fold. So few men can see beyond their noses. Even the price of a magazine, such as this for which I am writing, is objected to by many, although it is the broadening influence exercised by reading that we are helped to keep up with the procession and prevented from staying too long in one rut, that hopeless condition well exemplified by a certain type of theatre muician previously referred to.
I commenced playing Sundays at Ontario Beach before the theatre closed for the season, and by the time summer had come was well broken in for the work, as I had been playing viola all winter. My associations were pleasant and interesting; the musicians were good players and splendid fellows. My reputation increased as a soloist, by reason of the fact that there were visitors from everywhere who spent the summer at this resort, besides the excursionists from Canada, the steamers bringing many of these from cross Lake Ontario, and I met many old friends who come over from Toronto, and who congratulated me upon the improvement in my cornet playing since leaving their city a few years before.
This engagement lasted until the theatre opened in September, and the regular cornet player not being re-engaged (Hiram Batchelor), I was to take his place, playing cornet instead of viola for the season. This pleased me and put new life into me, for I must have made much improvement during the past winter on the cornet to satisfy the leader, Dave Morgan, who was a "grouch" but still a good fellow.
The first week we opened I had the surprise of my life in the form of an offer to become solo cornetist of the Citizens' Band of Toronto, directed by my old friend Mr. John Bayley, who was appointed director of this new Regimental Band, and supported by the citizens of Toronto. I was to receive a regular yearly salary as a retaining fee, all outside engagements of regimental duties being extra pay, with plenty of time for teaching and for playing other engagements that did not interfere with the band. The reputation gained me by my solos at Ontario Beach had reached Toronto, hence this offer, which I accepted, giving notice to Dave Morgan, my theatre leader, who became quite angry at my leaving him so early in the season. But I promised to remain with him until a suitable substitute could be procured, and this delayed me a week or two. I was fortunate in securing a good man from Boston, Freeman by name, who proved satisfactory to Morgan. Then I said "good-bye" to all the boys, and started once more for Torono, returning there this time as cornet soloist, and under salary. Just think! This was practically the same band I had joined in 1883, starting as the twelfth cornet, working my way up to first cornet, and in four years had improved my playing to the extent that I was engaged for really the best position of its kind in Canada.
Nobody ever encouraged me to practice.
Nobody ever pushed me ahead.
Nobody ever taught me how to play.
Nobody ever told me that I played well.
I had to do all things by myself, even in the face of all kinds of opposition. The only encouragement I ever received for my efforts was the fact that, somehow, I seemed to be useful to the different leaders who employed men, and I always held a position until a better engagement turned up.
I am not making these assertions from a conceited standpoint, but simply to prove that every cornet player, or in fact any instrumentalist, has an equal chance to become successful if he perseveres properly, discovering his own mistakes and weaknesses, correcting them immediately, and setting the highest point of excellence as his goal.
In many ways it was a wise move on my part to accept this offer from Toronto, for my father had purchased a large farm of forty acres in Reading, near Boston, Mass., to establish a school for organists, building himself the largest organ at that time in the country, and I would be without a paternal home if I remained in Rochester. Besides, the new position in Toronto placed me in a different environment in the musical field, giving me more prestige and a better chance to improve my musical studies and to demonstrate just how much my "stock in trade" might be worth should I place it upon the market. Also, Toronto was like an old home where I was well known.
The future looked bright and I had increased confidence in myself as a soloist, with opportunities I had often dreamed of.