Wishing is not attaining, however, and never having learned to actually play a wind instrument of any kind I could not quite see just how the coveted membership was to be secured, so contented myself with listening to my brothers as they practiced on their instruments at home in different rooms. From hearing Ed play them hour after hour, day in and day out, I soon came to know by ear every exercise in Arban's Cornet Method. Ed, by the way, was the possessor of a silver cornet of which he was very proud and which he revered highly, as formerly it had belonged to and was used by the noted cornetist, "Mat" Arbuckle. Although I greatly admired this instrument I never was allowed to touch it under any conditions but no one ever knew how much in secret I envied Ed in both his playing and possession of that cornet. It now is evident that the "playing germ" was then generating insidiously within me, but I did not realize it until later.
In the following year of 1881 a great band came to Toronto to fulfill a week's engagement, playing concerts in the Horticultural pavilion, at that time the best concert hall in the city. The visiting aggregation was the famous Reeves' American Band of Providence, R.I., its director, David Wallace Reeves, being an able cornetist who was noted for his remarkable triple tongue execution. My father allowed me to attend some of the concerts, and there I listened entranced by what in my mind at the time was the greatest band ever heard by me. I sat in a front seat enraptured and enthralled with the playing of that band. After a few ensembled numbers there came a cornet solo which made me sit up and take notice. Again words fail me in trying to describe my feelings! Never before had I heard anything like it, and even at this present moment it stands out in memory as being the greatest of all incidents in my boyhood life! The cornet soloist was Bowen R. Church, then a young dashing chap and a very remarkable player. His brilliant playing roused the audience to intense enthusiasm, and I went home and dreamed of my first real "herd' in the music profession. The dormant germ had been galvanized into activity!
I can now realize, as my thoughts turn backward while writing this page, that it was the superb playing of Bowen Church which first inspired me and brought with it the realization that a cornet was the instrument for which I really cared and craved. Yet even so I never dreamed it as being at all possible for me to approach anywhere near his proficiency on the instrument. It seems strange, too, that many years after the Toronto episode, I should become the head of the American band, yet following the deceas of Bandmaster "Wally' Reeves I occupied that position in 1902; neither did I then think that Bowen R. Church (now also deceased) and myself would become the best friends which we were for many years.
To become an instrumentalist one first must have an instrument. As I already have said, Ed never would allow me to touch his cornet, while as for attempting to blow it - well the result may be imagined! So for the second time I made an invasion upon the already twice invaded "collection," this time dragging forth the old brass cornopean. Upon taking the thing from its wooden box I discovered that about half of the joints and tubing were loose, and it likewise needed but little blowing to disclose that the intrument was very leaky, so the first thing I did was to plaster up the tubing with beeswax and try to make it half-way playable. Of course, this, as well as any blowing, had to be done secretly when nobody was about, yet I managed to make enough progress to satisfy myself that possibly some time I might qualify as a player on a real instrument.