On Memorial Day of 1897, the forces of creativity took a stand against the forces of discipline -- and lost. The sad story of Professor Fanciulli is reprinted below, as it appeared in The Washington Post of Tuesday, June 1, 1897.
PROF. FANCIULLI, director and leader of the Marine Band, spent his last night in the Marine Barracks under arrest. He was confined to the limits of the barracks for insubordination, and refusing to obey orders. Music, which is the professor's strong point, is the cause of his imprisonment, and Lieut. T.L. Draper, of the Marine Corps is the officer by whose orders the band leader spent the night in the barracks instead of his home outside the walls a few blocks away.
The professor and the lieutenant differed on the character of music best suited for marching, and words followed, which led Fanciulli being ordered to leave yesterday's parade and return to the barracks, where he reported himself under arrest. Fanciulli's music, so the lieutenant thought, was too classical, and did not have the swing and snap which makes the men throw back their shoulders.
The Decoration Day parade left the barracks yesterday morning, preceded by the Marine Band. There was the usual flourish of trumpets and beating of drums before the band began to play, and as the men caught up with the time, the officers noticed that the cadence of the band and the cadence of the men's step didn't agree. In the parlance of the garrison, the corps was afflicted with a "chop step," which was not conducive to a martial appearance in a military body.
This is usually corrected by the file closers calling the step in the absence of a band, but when one is present, the general rule is to have it change its music and its time. These two things presented themselves to the officer in command of the Marines yesterday, and, having a band, he dispatched a non-commissioned officer to the head of the line where the red-coated musicians marched, with a request that leader Fanciulli play something more stirring or "swinging." The officer, who, as all officers are, is accustomed to have his requests granted, was surprised to find that the band would not play "swinging" music, and the Marines marched all the way to the place where the parade formed behind music which the officers say was too much on the carinet solo style.
Once arrived at the corner of Fifteenth and Pennsylvania Avenue, where the parade was to be formed, Lieut. McGill was dispatched by Lieut. Draper to request Fanciulli to play different music when the parade moved. The Lieutenant informed the professor that the officers and men were tired of clarinet solos and wanted something with more snap in it. The professor answered that he was in charge of the band and the music and would play as he saw fit.
"You will not play as Leiut. Draper says?" asked Lieut. McGill.
"No," replied the professor. "I prefer to select my own music."
"Then," said the Lieutenant, "I will have to refer the matter to Lieut. Draper." And he returned with his report to where the Marines had halted.
Lieut. Draper heard what his junior had to say, and sheathing his sword, walked over to where the bandmaster stood. He suggested that he would like to make a few selections to be played during the parade. The professor replied that the selections were already made, and turning to the front rank men in the band, said:
"Play what I tell you to play."
"I am in command of this company, Mr. Fanciulli," said Lieut. Draper, "and will have to place you under arrest if my orders are disobeyed."
"Do it, do it," said the professor.
And the Lieutenant did. He ordered the bandmaster to proceed at once to the barracks and report himself under arrest to the commanding officer. The professor boarded a passing car, and reported at the barracks as directed. Since then he has been confined within the limits of the place. He spent the afternoon and evening in the band quarters, and was practically a prisoner.
Charles Larson, the leading cornetist of the band, took Prof. Fanciulli's place as principal musician and the parade moved under the inspiring strains of the music selected by Lieut. Draper, with longer cadenzas which better suited the swinging step of the blue jackets. Superior Officer Absent
Col. Heywood and Capt. Harrington were absent from the barracks until a late hour, and no official report of the case will be made to them until the morning. Lieut. McGill was officer of the day, and gave strict orders that no one was to see the professor until the Commandant had been notified officially of the arrest.
Prof. Fanciulli's position in the service is that of a private. He holds the title of principal musician, which carries with it no rank, and he is to all intents and purposes a private soldier. It has been the custom in all army posts to accord to the principal musician, as well as to the members of the band, certain privileges.This custom prevails at the Marine Barracks, and while not an officer, Prof. Fanciulli has been accorded special liberties which the enlisted men do not enjoy.
He is carried on the payroll as a private, with the additional salary allowed for musician and band leader. There are no special privileges accorded to him as the leader of the country's most famous band, as many suppose, but he is on the same footing as the principal musicians of other bands in the service. A Talented Leader
Prof. Fanciulli is recognized as one of the most talented musicians in the country. It is no disparagement to any of his brilliant predecessors (Sousa among them) to say Fanciulli, in spite of limited facilities and poor pay, has brought the Marine Band upto a high state of efficiency. Its members are all artists and the only criticism ever offered of his leadership is that the music of the band is sometimes too find in quality to catch the popular fancy.The professor is peculiarly sensitive to criticism, as thorough artists generally are, and is disposed to act somewhat precipitately. If in error, he is quick to make amends, however. In this case he sincerely believed, no doubt, that as director of the band he alone was empowered to choose the musical programme. Otherwise, he recognized his station -- to go where his officers directed and to obey orders promptly and literally. It is hoped that nothing more than a reprimand will follow yesterday's episode, as his loss from the head of the Marine Band would be keenly felt.
He is very proud of the band and constantly mindful of his own repuration as a leader. Lately he has congratulated himself upon the organization's progress, and the outlook for exceptionally fine outdoor concerts. He said every member of the band was a thorough musician, and could be relied upon. It had been no easy task to keep a talented corps of musicians together owing to the small compensation allowed them.
It tooka special order from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a man named Theodore Roosevelt, to have the arrest expunged from Prof. Fanciulli's record, and to restore him to his position and privileges.