Jack's Musings: Henry Fillmore September 29 2010, 0 Comments

Musings Henry Fillmore By Jack Kopstein

As an American musical icon, Henry Fillmore’s musical career spanned over fifty years. He continuously flooded the band music market under several names. For easy band music, Mr. Fillmore used the name Harold Bennett. He used the names Will Huff and Al Hayes for band music of medium difficulty. For the more difficult repertoire, Henry Fillmore used several names: Gus Beans, Ray Hall, Harry Hartley, and Henrietta Hall! He probably wrote and arranged more band music than anyone in the history of the art. Fillmore's biographer, Paul Bierley, figures that Fillmore wrote 250 original compositions for band and arranged 750 other pieces. Fillmore wrote or arranged over one thousand pieces of music in his musical career with his work amounting to at least 20 compositions per year, almost 2 compositions per month. How prolific; it remains an incredible feat, particularly since he no doubt wrote, arranged, and copied his own compositions for publication. Fillmore had a wide range of interests in composing and arranging. He wrote hymns, fox-trots, waltzes, marches, and overtures. Fillmore arranged several classic compositions as well as classic reductions. Henry Fillmore was the name most associated with band music in the golden age of concert/parade and military band music in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

Henry Fillmore was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1881. He was the eldest of 5 children. His father was a partner in the Fillmore Religious music publishing house. Henry Fillmore had a well-trained singing voice, and he sang in church choir. He dabbled with the piano and mastered the flute, violin, and guitar. He also became fascinated with the slide trombone, an instrument his father believed to be too evil for any righteous person to play. The instrument was often associated with street corner musicians whom were known to imbibe "the demon rum". But Fillmore’s mother prevailed, and he earnestly began to study the trombone. He was educated in Cincinnati public schools. In 1901, Fillmore graduated from a junior college with a "Bachelor of Arts" degree. The succeeding Fall he attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, studying trombone with Charles Kohlman and composition with John Broekhoven. He worked for a time in his Father’s publishing firm but left in 1905 after an argument over his love affair with exotic dancer Mabel May Jones. Love prevailed and Henry proposed to Miss Jones by mail. They were married in St Louis. Fillmore then began a career in circus music, gaining employment with the Lemon Brothers Circus. Both he and his wife were hired. Thus began an association with American circus life, which continued for several years. By 1910, Fillmore resolved his differences with his father and returned to music publishing. Since his salary was very low and his royalties were not yet large enough to sustain himself, Fillmore began to teach trombone and perform in private groups. At some point he gained sufficient skill in conducting, that he led the Syrian Temple Shrine Band from from 1921 to 1926. In 1927, Fillmore organized his own professional band, which was the last in a long line of great professional bands of its type in America. The great Gilmore and Sousa bands had passed into history when Fillmore began his band in Cincinnati. Fillmore's band became immensely popular. Fillmore's band did more than play music. It entertained the audience. He often turned directly around to the audience and conducted the band, finishing numbers with long fermata (holds or pauses), and demonstrating how much he enjoyed the audience's presence. Henry Fillmore was called "Showman Supreme." Fillmore was well ahead of his musical time, in regards to what he considered the entertainment value of a conductor. Many of his conducting characteristics were adopted by American bandmasters years later, including the eminent Major Mark Azzolino who conducted the NORAD band of Colorado Springs during the 1960’s and 70’s. Fillmore developed cardiac problems and moved to Miami, Florida in 1938, for his health. He had made a decision to retire, but soon he was employed with the University of Miami band. Fillmore ended up traveling extensively in the United States, adjudicating musical competitions and guest conducting. In addition, between 1939 and 1942, he assisted in the development of 32 high school band programs in Florida. Henry Fillmore willed the bulk of his estate to the University of Miami. At the age of 75, he died in 1956. Henry Fillmore began composing at age 18. His first known publication is the march Higham, named after a line of brass instruments. His last composition was dedicated to the President of Miami University at the time, Jay F.W. Pearson. It was titled the Presidents March. Altogether, Fillmore composed 113 marches. His most well-known marches include "Americans We," "Men Of Ohio" (excerpted for the Blue Dragon Fight Song), "His Honor," "The Footlifter," and "Military Escort." "Military Escort" has been called the best easy march ever composed. John Philip Sousa told Henry Fillmore that he wished Sousa's name was on this march. Men Of Ohio was dedicated to President Warren G. Harding, who had played the Alto horn in his Marion, Ohio, high school band. www.MilitaryMusic.com features several albums containing Fillmore's work. Such albums include: The Golden Age of the Concert Band, Ceremonial Music (2 Disc Collection), Footlifters!, and also the all-Fillmore album Military Escort, available at iTunes!