Table of Contents
In the fall of 1886, after my summer with the "When Band" of Indianapolis, of which I told last month, I resumed my old position as viola player in the orchestra of English's Opera House. Complications arose when the theatrical business soon showed no indications of coming up to the expectations of the management and it was hinted that there was going to be a cut in the orchestra. Even in those days the first economy in an opera house commenced with the music, reduction in the number of musicians. In this case, of course, we knew the instruments to be dispensed with, namely, the second violin and viola, which were to be supplanted by a pianist.
Meetings were held by the members to decide what would be done were this to take place. All agreed that if the two instruments, violin and viola, were replaced by piano, the entire orchestra would "strike." This the men felt no qualms about, as they all felt sure that their positions could not be filled. About two weeks later, the order was issued from the front of the house that the above two instruments would not be needed for the rest of the season, starting the following week.
Next Monday morning we all appeared at rehearsal as usual, and shortly afterward the manager came down the aisle with the piano player. His discharging the two string players, my brother Ed and myself, precipitated the action we had decided upon two weeks before. The entire orchestra arose and said that they would all quit unless we two were kept to play the whole season. The manager became quite incensed at being dictated to, and said, "Well, you can all leave if you feel that way about the matter." The etire orchestra packed up and walked out. The men went to the bandroom, and talked the matter over, feeling confident that their places could not be filled, as good, experienced musicians were mighty scarce in the city at this time, and every player in the orchestra was the best that could be procured. It was necessary to maintain this standard, as the shows booked were of the highest order.
Word was left at the theatre that if the manager reconsidered his words and the complete orchestra was wanted, we would come over immediately, and finish the rehearsal. We waited all morning in the bandroom, but no answer came. We wondered what the show would do without any music. The leader, when questioned about it by one of the men who went to his home, refused any answer or satisfaction.
In those days there was no Union to arbitrate or protect us against such occurrences, so we had to submit to the inevitable. At night the entire orchestra attended the show to see how it could possibly be given without any music. Imagine our surprise when the orchestra bell rang and we saw one man after another entering the pit; all of the young men strangers to us. Upon investigation, we learned that the leader had used a number of his pupils as substitutes for our men. He just had to do this, or lose his job. I felt sorry to think that, on account of my brother and myself, all the other men had lost a season's engagement. On the whole, it was a good experience for me, showing very clearly that there is no one, no matter how good, who cannot be replaced, and I decided then never to or be too independent unless I had something better ahead to step into.
This calamity forced us to create some kind of business, because all the men depended upon the musical profession for a livelihood. To start action, we rehearsed together every day and advertised for engagements, hustling like real business men. The manager of the When Clothing Company appeared on the scene, and made us a proposal to take the orchestra on tour as a advertisement for the store, playing all the small towns in the central and southern part of Indiana. As we were all members of the "When Band" we were well known, having made quite a reputation through out the State with work at the Band Contest.