After our week's engagement with the Knights Templar Commanders at the Triennial Conclave held in St. Louis, Missouri, we returned home to Indianapolis and commenced drilling in good shape for the big State Contest that was to be held in Evansville, Indiana. We went into rehearsal every day until each member of the "When Band" could play his part in the three selected numbers from memory. Also we devoted more attention to the matter of teamwork, each man "feeling" the others, so to speak - something of cours, essential to good band work, or, in fact, to any sort of work where more than one player is involved.
On October 10th, 1886, we left Indianapolis early in the morning and arrived at Evansville in time for the introductory parade in which all the competing bands took part. The following day began with the contest, with every band from all over the State each playing three selections. There were competent judges placed in a tent out of sight, as was customary, and the bandmasters drew lots for the order in which their organizations were to play. When our turn came, although we were quite excited, as was to be expected, still we were confident and played our numbers better than at rehearsals, with the result that we were awarded first prize.
Then, in the afternoon, came the cornet contest, and my application having been duty sent in, I was chosen to play first. The fact that we had won first prize in the band contest of the morning gave me more confidence and courage than usual, and then, too, the boys in our band "rooted" strongly for me, which added to my courage. The solo I had chosen was "The Whirlwind Polka" by Levy, the same that I had played in Canada the previous year at the time I won the cup. After finishing the long cadenza at the bginning of the piece, I was somewhat in a trance, although not nearly so nervous as on the previous occasion when I had played the number. My technic had improved, and I was not any longer the least bit afraid of the high notes. The tip I had received from Will Manson concerning "brilliancy" also had its effect. Nevertheless I was glad when it was all over. Although the boys complimented me upon my efforts, I realized that my playing was far from being satisfactory to myself, and I could do much better if only given another chance. I had not played nearly as well as I would have been able to play had I been in my room all alone.
After my solo, I left the bandstand and walked to the rear of the great audience in order that I might listen to the other contestants. The next soloist in line to play then stood up. I think his choice was "The Lizzie Polka," by John Hartman, and there is no question but that he played well. I knew every note of the solo and I had to admit that his style was splendid; quite brilliant, as should be that of a virtuoso. I felt that he surety must win the prize. This thought affected me to such an extent that I did not want to hear the finish of his selection, but went some distance off into the woods (the fair grounds where we played were on the outskirts of the city) feeling the most disconsolate boy in the world. I knew our band boys were set on my carrying away the prize and should I lose it I never could face them again. From the way the other fellow played, at any rate as far as I had listened, I knew that his performance was far superior to mine.
I must have been out there fully an hour meditating on how I could get back to Indianapolis all alone, feeling discouraged, broken-hearted, when one of our boys found me after looking everywhere. and told me to hurry back to the bandstand as the judges were waiting to present me with the first prize! Imagine my surprise (and secret delight) upon hearing this good news, although I felt sorry for the other fellow who really had played well. A few moments ago I had been contemplating suicide in its less painful forms. I could not understand my good fortune. I cannot remember the name of the player who lost to me and I have never heard of him since - I believe he came from Brazil, Indiana. I was told later that although he began his solo in a fine manner, playing well throughout until nearing the end, he eventually caved in and made a bad finish.