Nicholas Falcone

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Nicholas Falcone
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Background information
Birth nameNicholas D. Falcone
BornSeptember 20, 1892
Roseto Valfortore, Italy
DiedFebruary 11, 1981(1981-02-11) (aged 88)
  • Classical music
  • American march music
  • Marching Band
  • Musician
  • Music educator
  • Composer
  • Conductor
  • Marching band director
Years active1911-1934
Associated actsMichigan Marching Band
Director of the University of Michigan Bands
In office
Preceded byNorman Larson
Succeeded byBernard Hirsch
Personal details
EducationRoseto School of Music

Nicholas D. Falcone (September 20, 1892 – February 11, 1981) was a classically trained clarinet virtuoso[1] who served as an educator, composer, conductor, and director of the University of Michigan Bands in the first half of the 20th Century. He was also a soloist and Assistant Director of the Roseto Valfortore Symphony Orchestra[2] as well as a soloist with the Foggia Symphony in Italy, the Baltimore City Park Band, the Ford Band, the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, and the University of Michigan School of Music String Quartet.[2]

Early years (1892–1911)

Falcone was born in Roseto Valfortore, Italy on September 20, 1892.[3][1][4][2] While it is uncertain if his mother was imbued with musical talent, his father was a barber and a singer.[2][3] Nicholas was the first of seven children born to his parents,[4] including his brother, Leonard Falcone (a talented baritone horn player), and four sisters, of whom two were pianists and two were singers.[2]

Falcone was introduced to cavalry band music at age 2 while his family was traveling in South America.[2] After returning home, he began studying music in earnest at age 5.[2] He received music training at the Roseto School of Music in Italy.[1]

Falcone worked as a Tailor apprentice in Roseto to help pay for his ongoing education.[2] In addition to the instruction he received from Donato Donatelli and his son, Michelangelo, Falcone studied many years under Philip De Cesare and Rufus M. Arey.[2] By age 19, he had been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting Il Trovatore for the Roseto Opera Company.[2]

A new home (1912–1925)

Falcone immigrated to the United States in 1912. [1][2] Upon arriving, Falcone earned a living as a tailor first in New York City, and then in Ann Arbor, Michigan until 1915 when he was hired to be the Director of Orchestra in Butterfield Theaters in Ypsilanti, Michigan and Ann Arbor.[2]

On November 12 of 1918, while recovering from influenza, Nicholas suffered a temporary and partial loss of hearing.[4]

A Michigan man (1926–1934)

While enrolled in the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance in 1926, Falcone was placed in charge of organizing a freshman band. In light of his success, he was appointed as Director of that band.[2] Falcone then succeeded Norman Larson as Conductor of the Michigan Band in 1927.[5][1]

Falcone served as conductor of the University of Michigan Varsity Band, as the Michigan Marching Band was known at the time, from 1927 until 1935 and enjoyed a generally positive reputation throughout his tenure.[1] Falcone wrote the "M Men March" (which he dedicated to Robert A. Campbell (mayor) of the University of Michigan) and a medley of University of Michigan songs around 1927.[2] Falcone spent the summer of 1929 studying under Antonio Vitadino in Rome.[2]

By 1930, Falcone was serving as Director of the Varsity Band and Head of the Department of Band Instruments in the School of Music.[2] Falcone was directing when University of Michigan Varsity Band first performed a script Ohio formation in 1931.[1]

In early 1932, Falcone's left ear went deaf. He took a short leave of absence in hopes of recovering, but confided that his hearing had been damaged by numerous severe colds he had suffered since the incident in 1918.[3]

Despite protests in Ann Arbor and within the band's existing membership, Falcone allowed African-American students to begin auditioning and joining the band in around 1933. For the first time, women were also allowed to join the band, though their participation was limited to Concert Band activities.[3][6]

During a performance in January 1934, Falcone suddenly lost the hearing in his right ear, leaving him totally deaf. His brother, Leonard Falcone, was by then the Director of the Michigan State University Spartan Marching Band Varsity Band.[2] At Nicholas' request, Leonard also assumed Nicholas' duties at the University of Michigan while Nicholas took a medical leave of absence to seek treatment.[4][7] Day-to-day leadership of the band was delegated to student leadership. This arrangement, approved by the University of Michigan continued from January through June of 1934.[3] By the fall of that year, one of those student leaders, Bernard Hirsch, was appointed Acting Conductor.[3]

The silent years (1935–1981)

Though Falcone officially retained his position at the university through 1935, Hirsch continued to serve as Acting Conductor since Falcone recovered his hearing only briefly before becoming permanently and completely deaf.[4][5][1] The university offered Falcone's position to William Revelli on August 26, 1935 while Falcone technically was still on medical leave. Falcone formally tendered his resignation the following February.[3]

Despite his lack of hearing, Falcone continued to compose and arrange music for years afterward as part of the Federal Music Project.[1] He earned additional financial support for his wife (Thelma) and two children (Nicholas, Jr. and Mary) by working in an Ann Arbor factory.[3] The University of Michigan Board of Regents recognized him as Director Emeritus of University Bands in 1978.[4] He died on February 11, 1981.[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Proceedings of the Board of Regents. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan. 1978. p. 11. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 The Michigan Alumnus - Volume 37. 1930. p. 427. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Dobos, Joseph; Berz, William. "Nicholas Falcone, The Band Director You've Probably Never Heard Of" (PDF). University of Michigan Band Alumni Association. The University of Michigan Band Alumni Association. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Tobin, James. "Brothers of Band". Stories of the Staff. The Regents of the University of Michigan. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 M: University of Michigan Football: The First 100 Years, 1879-1979. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Football Centennial Committee. 1979. p. 87. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  6. "BHL: Band (University of Michigan) records". Bentley Historical Library. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  7. The Instrumentalist - Volume 53, Issues 1-6. 1998. p. 58. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  8. The President's Report to the Board of Regents for the ... - Volume 1. The University of Michigan. 1981.

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