The following summer (1891), I 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.
I ORGANIZE A TRIO
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 Canadian born, 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, 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?
I EXPERIENCE QUALMS
Of course, I was well thought of in my own city, and this naturally flattered me and gave me the conceit to think that I might probably make good. But when I began to realize that I was simply coming from the "backwoods" so to speak, without the experience necessary for such an organization, it dawned upon me that my coming to New York was the result of some ambitious dreams, promoted by the local reputation I had made in Toronto, and the persistent letters from Ernest to make a tryout. It seemed audacious on my part ever to attempt such an impossibility. One can imagine my feelings as the time drew near for my appointment with Mr. Gilmore.
However, the trip to New York was expensive, and I was not going back a coward, even if I failed in the examination. Anyway, I would have the honor of playing before Mr. Gilmore, and perhaps learn something from any suggestions he might offer, and when I grew older, I would be in a better position and condition to make another trial at that time. I made up my mind that I would do my very best, even if I failed to satisfy him.
With this thought uppermost in my mind, and the knowledge that if I ever expected to win out and become a great artist I must go after just what I wanted, and furthermore that even if this tryout proved a failure, it would not kill me, I walked bravely to Mr. Gilmore's home, rang the bell, was ushered into his beautiful library, and told to wait a few moments.
While looking around the room I discovered a photo of myself and wondered how it came to be there. It was beside a picture of my brother Ernest, who probably had given it to this great bandmaster. Mr. Gilmore was a man who kept in touch with every soloist in the world, and I felt proud that my picture was exhibited in his home. This gave me even greater courage to do my best when the time came for me to play before him. I realized that this event was the crisis of my life, and that I must put forth every effort I could command in my playing. I determined to "win out or bust", knowing that if I should get the least bit nervous, it would take away ninety percent of my skill, and leave me only ten per cent to work on, which would surely spell disaster.
Brother Ernest accompanied me to Mr. Gilmore's home, and kept encouraging me to do my best, telling me of the wonderful chance to be heard all over the world as a soloist, and of the experience I would gain in seeing different cities, besides the opportunity presented of hearing other great soloists and learning much from them, an opportunity I would not have living in one city all the rest of my life. He pointed out that my musical education would benefit a thousand fold in this environment of association with the best musicians in the world.
Of course, this inspired me with thoughts of what I might accomplish in the musical field, should I satisfy Mr. Gilmore with my playing, and I really braced up and made up my mind that I would obtain the position I sought, and with this determination, half my battle was fought, and I was ready to show just what I could do.