The following summer (1891), 1 secured a long engagement for the Heintzman's Piano Company Band, of which I was now the leader, at Hanlon's Point on the island, the resort of Toronto. We became quite popular.
My cornet practice was not neglected in the least, although I confined my playing now to solo work entirely and practiced diligently for this alone, purchasing all the cornet solos I knew of, published in all countries. My repertoire consisted of some three hundred solos, including arias, fantasias, air varies, polkas, waltzes and ballads. Living in one city for any length of time and playing at concerts continually, one must keep adding something new each week if one expects to be in demand.
There was not much business for the band during the winter months, except the regular rehearsals, and having permission from my firm to do some individual concert work, I formed a little company of three, called The Canadian Trio, giving an entire evening's entertainment. I booked concerts throughout the province of Ontario, which not only netted a good substantial income, but helped to increase my reputation. Before long I became known as "Canada's Favorite Cornet Soloist." Everyone thought I was Canadianborn, and I never disputed the belief, as I really did make my reputation as soloist in Canada, even first starting to play the cornet there.
In September, 1891, my band was engaged for a week at the Montreal Exposition, and many were the flattering comments on our playing, as well as on my cornet solos. I had a splendid band of forty-five players.
About this time my brother Ernest was making quite a name for himself as a trombone soloist in New York City, as well as during his tour of the country with Gilmore's Band, and I received frequent letters from him, each containing the advice for me to come to New York whenever it was possible and have a tryout with this famous organization; for Mr. Gilmore was engaged to play the entire six months at the World's Fair at Chicago, in 1893, with a band of one hundred men, and the following year to make a tour throughout Europe.
I began to get interested, thinking what a grand opportunity it would be for me if I should make good and become a soloist of this great band, and be heard every day at the Chicago Fair, which would be visited by millions of people during the six months. Also, to play concerts all over Europe would be the dream of my life. I began to realize that in order to become known, one must travel and be heard in different countries. Even a local reputation is all right in a way, but an international reputation is best of all, and this might be the chance of a lifetime for me if I were only capable.
Still, I was doing well financially in Toronto just now, and if the change were made, it would compel me to give up everything after having become so well established in the band business. I pondered over this question for weeks, until another letter arrived from Ernest, telling me that Mr. Gilmore was looking for a good cornet soloist for these future engagements, and that I should prepare to make a trip to New York just as soon as possible and play for the great bandmaster before the position was filled.
So in February, 1892, I mustered enough confidence, with the kind encouragement of the Heintzman Piano Company, to go to New York City, arriving there on a Sunday morning and going direct to Mr. Gilmore's home, without any notice to him. On my reaching his house, his maid informed me that he could not be disturbed this morning, as he was resting after a hard week's work, preparing for his regular spring tour, but she made an appointment for me for three o'clock in the afternoon.
Both my brothers, Edwin and Ernest, were then living in New York, and I was pleased to meet them again, after having been separated for three years. Ernest went with me to Mr. Gilmore's home, to introduce me.
I did not go home with my brother, but walked around in Central Park for several hours all alone; for Mr. Gilmore's home was close to the Park, on the West Side. During this time I nearly lost courage and was going to back out and return to Toronto. When I thought of all the great cornet players, then in New York, who had played with Gilmore, such as Jules Levy, Walter Emerson, Ben Bent, Liberati, and of a host of very fine cornetists there without a national reputation who Gilmore would need for his great project touring the country with the largest band in the world composed of the very best musicians that could be mustered from all countries, is it any wonder that I felt afraid to play before him for a position such as my brother Ernest had written me about?