Arthur A. Clappé:

Early Influencer on American Wind Bands



Arthur A. Clappé


Arthur Albert Clappé graduated from Britain's Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall and went on to become called “The father of the modern American military band”. He was once the most influential and highly regarded Bandmaster in the United States of America, yet he is little known today.


The remarks of one of the most popular composers and arrangers of music for concert band serve to illustrate the stature in which Clappé was once held. In November 1918 Percy Grainger wrote an essay entitled Possibilities of the Concert Wind Band from the Standpoint of a Modern Composer for inclusion in the publication Metronome Orchestra Monthly. In it he said “Those who are interested in exploring the full latent possibilities of the modern concert wind band should consult Arthur A. Clappé's The Wind Band and its Instruments, an epoch-making work which is to the band of today what Berlioz's Treatise on Instrumentation was to the orchestra of his time – a standard work that no composer, musician, bandmaster, or bandsman should fail to know and absorb.” This was high praise indeed from a man who himself was to have such an effect on the sound of the concert band with his own arrangements and compositions for the ensemble.


A.A. Clappé was born on July 22, 1850 in Cork, Ireland, the second son of English parents, William Clappe[1] (b. 1817) and Sarah Burcher Clappe (b.1829 - d.1911). William was a Corporal of the 41st Welch Regiment of the British Army.  In 1863 Arthur enlisted as a Bandsman with the 2nd Battalion of the 13th Regiment of Foot [ later The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's)] eventually rising to be Band Sergeant.  His major instrument was the clarinet. On December 29, 1871 he began the Student Bandmaster Course at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall[2]. After successfully completing the important course, he was appointed Sergeant (Bandmaster) of the 3rd Battalion, 60th The King's Royal Rifle Corps on June 7, 1873. He served in that position until May 14, 1877, during which time the 3rd Battalion and its band remained in Chatham, England. [3] In 1873 he married Amy Chesswas (b. 1850 - d. 6 Aug 1899) at St. Mary's Parish Church, Twickenham.


In 1877 he was offered the position of Bandmaster of the Governor General's Foot Guards in Ottawa, Canada and he and his wife Amy, sons Montague Burcher Clappé (b. 26 /05/1875) and Arthur Burcher Clappé (b. 1877) emigrated to Canada.  It would seem this was a questionable move in that he left a secure position directing a professional British Army band for a part-time position directing a small Canadian Militia band. However, it proved to be a wise move for Clappé and a fortunate one for North American military bands.


The Governor General's Foot Guards was formed in 1872 as the leading infantry regiment of the Canadian Militia, equivalent to the British Territorial Army. The band played an important part in the military and social life of the Canadian capital city. Although the Canadian capital, Ottawa was at the time a small city situated in the Canadian backwoods and with limited cultural activity, it was the Canadian Capital City in which the Governor General of Canada resided. Clappé would have received an honorarium from the reent in the area of $300.00 per year, equivalent to about US$7000.00 in purchasing power today. The residence of the Governor General was a focal point of social life in the young capital city and the Band of the Governor General's Foot Guards was employed for numerous social functions, all of which would have been fee generating engagements for the band's conductor. In addition, he would have received fees for other band engagements. The 1878-79 Ottawa city census listed him as a music teacher, another source of income. For a time, he worked as a temporary clerk in the Postal Department, a position found for him by the regiment[4]. He was active as a composer for functions in the city. For the arrival of a new Governor General to Ottawa, The Marquis of Lorne and HRH The Princess Louise, he composed Canada's Welcome, a masque with words by Frederick A. Dixon which was premiered at the Ottawa Opera House on February 24, 1879. It was the largest of Clappé 's works with 102 pages of music. Other works included United Empire Valse, Farewell Waltzes dedicated to the Earl and Countess of Dufferin, and the song Softly Round Thy Pillow - all published or advertised around 1878.


In 1879 Clappé moved to Sarnia Ontario to become director of another Militia band, that of the 27th (Lambton) Battalion Band, as well as the Sarnia Citizens Band and the Mozart Choral Union. He also was organist and choir director at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.  It was during this period that Clappé 's influence on the Canadian Militia bands became most effective. He was tasked to organize the music and the bands at the Militia's annual summer concentrations.


The bands of Canada's Militia (the reserve volunteer army) in this period were of a varying standard depending upon the musical and financial resources of the communities in which they were located. The military units of larger cities, such as Toronto and Montreal, were able to form bands that attained a fairly good musical standard, whilst those of smaller communities were of a far lower military and musical standard. These variances became obvious during the annual summer training encampments of the various Militia Brigades. Often bands were unable to perform together. The Militia Commander directed that this situation be solved and Clappé was given the task to make the improvements.


The result was the printing and distribution of a set of march cards to all bands which included The National Anthem, a slow march for salute, quick steps for marching in column or quarter column, a trot past, and other useful music – all composed or arranged by Clappé. In addition, each band was issued a tuning fork and instructions about tuning instruments. In October 1884 the Brigade Commander said in his report: “I was again fortunate in having Mr. A.A. Clappé, Bandmaster of the 27th Battalion Band as Brigade Bandmaster. The several bands assembled daily for practice; the music was in every way creditable and satisfactory. Mr. Clappé reported a great improvement in the tuning of the various instruments.” [5]


On November 14, 1884 The Sarnia Observer newspaper contained the following article: “Mr. Clappe (sic ) has tendered his resignation as musicmaster in the public schools. Mrs. Clappe and children left for England last week, and Mr. Clappe offered his residence and household good for sale by auction yesterday. His present intention is to return to England. Citizens will generally be sorry to hear of his removal from Sarnia. His services as instructor of the 27th Battalion Band have been of the greatest value to that organization, raising from the level of an ordinary rural band to a top place among the military bands of the Dominion. The musical tastes of the people have been improved by his labours in the schools and churches and musical organizations, and a higher standard than prevailed before his arrival amongst us. The active members of the band, and lovers of good music generally, will regret his departure. Mr. Clappe recommends Mr. Hecker of Winnipeg as a competent musician to take his place. Miss Clarke, who has just returned from there, speaks highly of Mr. Hecker's abilities.”


That is our first indication that Clappé 's marital situation and life in general were taking a new direction. The New York Times of February 12, 1885 contains the following: “Toronto Ont. Feb.11 – Sarnia is all agog over the news that Mr. A.M. Clappe (sic), formerly leader of the Twenty-seventh Battalion Band, who left town several months ago with the declared intention of going to India to take charge of an English military band, is now in New York teaching music. Sometime before leaving last fall, Mr. Clappe sent his wife and children to England, and after settling up his affairs suddenly disappeared, simultaneously with the accomplished daughter of a minister of the place. It has since been ascertained that he is in New York and that the lady is there also. The discovery has created the greatest consternation in Sarnia, where Mr. Clappe had many friends. He was the organist of the Presbyterian church there and also taught music in the public schools. He was an exceedingly accomplished musician and was appointed brigade bandmaster of the first two camps at which his corps attended.”.


The 'accomplished daughter of a minister' was Margaret Isabella Goodson – known as 'Maggie' - whose father, Rev. George Goodson, was Minister of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Sarnia at which Clappé was the organist and choirmaster.  A daughter, Edith Frances[6], was born on Dec. 24, 1885.   His wife, Amy and three sons (a third son, Harold Burcher Clappé was born in Sarnia Ont. on December 30, 1881) returned to Great Britain.[7] There is no evidence that the marriage of Arthur Clappé and Amy Clappé was ever legally dissolved.  Amy's death certificate of August 6, 1899 showed her as “Wife of Arthur Albert Clappé, Journalist”, which would seem to indicate that they were still legally married.


Clappé moved to New York City to take over the editorship of The Metronome Magazine.[8] The Metronome was a very important publication for musicians in North America at the time. It contained news of concerts, musicians, instruments and job opportunities. Apparently Clappé became very successful in this work and the magazine flourished under his direction. He soon became an American citizen. It seems that Clappé was looking for opportunities to improve his situation. In February 1885 an advertisement appeared in The Metronome Magazine stating “Arthur A. Clappé, Bandmaster, late the Governor General's Band, Canada is desirous of securing a position of bandmaster in some live town. Salary not so much object as desirable location, having engagement taking part time. Michigan or Illinois preferred. Replies care of C. Fischer, 9 Fourth Ave., New York.” [9] In the fall of 1888, he became Bandmaster of the 71st Regiment, a socially prominent unit of the volunteer New York National Guard.[10] The band had been without a Bandmaster for a year, the previous Bandmaster Alessandro Liberati having suddenly disappeared. It was said “Egotism and women had been the undoing of Liberati.” [11]


There was a rivalry in New York City between the resident New York State National Guard Regiments to have the best regimental band. The most famous were the 22nd Regiment's Band conducted by Patrick Gilmore, and the 7th Regiment's band under C. S. Grafulla. Although the National Guard was, and is, a voluntary part-time activity, during this period the bands of the NYC units were professional and very active playing at public and private events. They employed some of the most prominent instrumentalists of the period. A.A. Clappé appeared to enter into this competitive scene with confidence and soon the local newspapers were lauding his accomplishments and the musicality of the 71st Band. The band, which numbered fifty musicians, travelled to communities in other states for appearances and fairs and festivals. There they were also well received. In 1889 he took the band, augmented to 75 pieces, to the Iowa Corn Festival.[12]


Clappé's competent reputation became more widely known and in 1886 he went to Elgin, Illinois for a six-month period at the invitation of the National Watch Company. The firm employed band musicians in its factory but also allowed them time to rehearse and play with the company band.  Clappé was asked to reorganize and make recommendations to improve the band. He then returned to New York City to resume his work there.


In July 1888 the 71st Regiment Band performed in Richmond, Virginia. The Metronome Magazine of August 1888 listed the program that was performed by the band:


Marche et Cortėge ' La Reine de Saba' – Gounod

Overture 'Der Freischutz' – Weber

Idylle ' The Mill In The Forest ' - Ellenburg

Introduction and Chorus 'Carmen' – Bizet

Zigeuner Standchen ' Gipsy Serenade' – Nehl

Grand Fantasie ' Scotia' - Clappé

During the Intermission the celebrated French Horn Quartette of the 71st Regimental Band performed.

Overture 'Rosamunde' – Schubert

Descriptive 'Russian Carriage Song' – Waterson

Andante from 'Surprise Symphony' – Haydn

Comic 'Funeral March of a Marionette ' - Gounod

Grand Fantasie ' Episodes In A Soldier's Life ' - J.A. Kappey


The Richmond Daily Times reported “The 71st Regiment Band is a fine body of musicians and it is to be regretted that only thirty-three of its fifty-five members could come to Virginia with the regiment. The program was well rendered, especially the quartet of French horns. Mr. Clappé is an able conductor and a finished musician, as well as a genial gentleman, and made many friends during his short visit to Richmond.”


In 1888 the position of Teacher of Music and Bandmaster became open at the United States Military Academy, West Point. Clappé was recommended for the position by Patrick Gilmore. He was appointed as the 10th Teacher of Music USMA effective October 1, 1888. He was employed in the position in a civilian capacity and this seemed to enable him to keep his position as Bandmaster of the 71st Regiment and Editor of The Metronome Magazine. The West Point Military Band numbered twenty-four musicians plus Leader.  Clappé's West Point salary was equivalent to that of a 2nd Lieutenant- $ 1080.00 per annum. That Clappé was performing as director of both organizations is shown by a February 1889 announcement that he was to lead the USMA Orchestra in a concert on April 6 of that year. [13] Another announcement in The Metronome of August 1889 states that he and the 71st Regiment Band of fifty musicians were engaged for the Corn Palace in Sioux City, Iowa leaving on September 19 and were to be there for five to eight weeks.[14] He was presented with two medals, one gold and one silver, in recognition of his work at the Corn Palace Festival. It must say something for the regard in which Clappé was held in that he was permitted by the military authorities to engage in all three activities. It also says something of the energy of the man in that he was able to do so.


It was during this period that he wrote and published the first of several books The Band Teacher's Assistant (1888), and Musical Essays - Pertaining Particularly to Military Bands (1893). Those were followed in 1894 by Self Help to the Cornet. In Musical Essays we are probably able to learn best just what his thinking was in regard to music, musical instruments and the band.  In the book Clappé outlines his philosophy on the importance of music in society, and the value of music education and participation throughout all classes of society. In addition, he talks about the properties of the various musical instruments and their place in the band, as well as how to rehearse and develop a good sounding musical ensemble.  In particular he advocates the use of the family of saxophones and the valved French horn, then fairly uncommon instruments in British and American bands. During these years he also maintained his work as a composer/arranger of band, orchestra, piano and vocal music, including the USMA Slow March. Many of his military marches were published by Carl Fischer Company, however a variety of firms published his other music works several of which are still published.


In 1891 a Mr. Harry Coleman, who was publisher of the Philadelphia monthly music magazine The Dominant, asked Clappé to become the magazine's editor. He accepted the position, and Carl Fischer Company took over The Metronome.  He seems to have left The Metronome on good terms, because in July 1894 that magazine contained the following: “Mr. Arthur A.  Clappé, editor of The Dominant, our bright Philadelphia contemporary, is one of the most indefatigable workers in the United States, and he is a man whose resources seem almost inexhaustible. Mr. Clappé has done more to encourage young bandsmen than any other single individual in America, not only by coming directly into personal contact with them in band and orchestral work, but through his literary labors for the past fifteen years. .................Mr. Clappé is a thorough musician, being a graduate of the famous Royal Military College (sic) of Music of England, and he is now bandmaster of the United States Military Academy at West Point.” [15] Mr. Coleman died in 1895 leading Clappé to resign his position at West Point and become manager of the estate which involved music publishing and instrument sales. In 1896 he severed his connection with the estate and purchased The Dominant Magazine which he kept until 1910.


Clappé left West Point with a very high reputation. One of his duties was to teach raw recruits how to play music instruments. Each year recruits who had been favourably assessed for music potential - “some ear for music”[16] - were assigned to the West Point Band for training and used in the Academy band. Those who did not complete a satisfactory standard were reassigned to general military training. In discussing five recruits who were deemed acceptable, the Superintendent USMA said: “The Teacher of Music informs me that when these men reported they knew not one instrument from another. He has taught them the rudiments of music by lecture, by blackboard instruction and in less than five months they have really learned considerable music and can play marches, waltzes but are not yet considered band musicians.” [17] Eventually he was successful in upping the band's strength from twenty-four to forty musicians. Clappé must have felt confident enough in his band's performance ability to take them further afield. In January 1894 he applied for permission to take the band to New York City for a series of concerts. Later in the year he again applied for permission to take the band on a thirty-day concert tour to the St. Louis, Missouri area. Both the requests were granted. 


His good work at the Academy stood him in good stead when the position of Bandmaster of the United States Marine Band became vacant. In May 1892 John Philip Sousa announced that he was resigning his position after twelve years with the US Marine Band to form his own civilian band.  Sousa was guaranteed US$6,000. per year (equivalent to approx. US$140,000.00 in purchasing power today) plus an interest in the profits. On June 1, 1892 Clappé wrote a letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps saying he wished to become a candidate for the position. That was followed by a similar letter on June 14 to the Secretary of the Navy. In the letter he cited the Superintendent USMA West Point, the Commander of Cadets, Patrick Gilmore and Sousa himself as references. The Superintendent also sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy listing Clappé 's abilities and accomplishments. [18] For some reason Clappé was not chosen to lead the US Marine Band. Instead, Francisco Fanciulli was accepted, and this proved to be a mistake. Fanciulli was considered a competent musician but found to be a weak leader and disciplinarian. He lasted a brief period before being replaced. [19] His arrest for insubordination after refusing to play any Sousa marches probably lead to his dismissal.[20]


An October 19, 1892 article in the New Times indicated that Clappé proposed to organize a syndicate to take over the operations of the Gilmore Band. Patrick Gilmore had recently died and there were numerous engagement commitments to be carried out. These included those of the band of 21st Regiment, New York National Guard, and concerts at the St. Louis Exposition. Nothing came of this, and he stayed on at West Point.


The New York Times of December 16, 1892 lists the following program of music to be played by Clappé 's West Point Band at the Press Club Carnival of Sport in the city's Madison Square Gardens:


Grand Processional March - Clappé

Overture 'Mirella' – Gounod

Waltz 'Delores' – Waldteufel

Selection 'Carmen' – Bizet

Hungarian Dance 'Kossuth' - Clappé

Overture 'Merry Wives of Windsor'    - Nicolai

Träumerei and Romanze – Schumann

Polonaise – Chopin

Military Patrol 'Retreat' – Welsey

'Red, White and Blue'


The newspaper further stated that “this would afford the public the opportunity to hear on the same day the two 'crack' bands of the United States Government.” The other band was the United States Marine Band. conducted by Francisco Fanciulli, who had recently won the post over Clappé 's application.


As a matter of interest, the US Marine Band's program was:


Overture “L'Etoile du Nord – Meyerbeer

Selection “Merchant of Venice” – Pinsuti

“Danse de Patineurs” (Skaters' Dance) – Godfrey

Grand March “Army of the Potomac” – Fanciulli

Overture “Hanolin” - Griffiths

Galop Characteristique “The Press” -Fanciulli

     (New, first time)

Ballet Music “Queen of Saba “- Gounod

Waltz “Fairy Voices” – Crowe

March “Cruiser New York” - Fanciulli


 Clappé remained in his position at West Point until February 28, 1895. The Metronome Magazine of March 1895 reported that he resigned “...for a more lucrative position so we are informed.”  From 1897 until 1905 he was Director of Music and Entertainment at the recently opened Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the most luxurious hotel in New York City. He also continued his production of The Dominant Magazine. The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was the scene of many functions involving socially and financially prominent people. Arthur conducted the music for their events such as charity balls. He was asked to assist on the boards of various music organizations.


The financial position of the Clappés appears to have been quite favourable. In addition to income from conducting, composing and the operation of The Dominant, he performed on the clarinet, and gave endorsements for music instruments. In 1902 he purchased a summer residence in Westport, Connecticut which he remodelled and refurnished[21]. Around the same period he also appears to have acquired a farm property in Bergen, New Jersey, just north of New York on which he employed three people – two labourers and a servant[22]. In 1917 the Clappés lived in a well-appointed apartment building at 149 West 12 Street Manhattan.


During the Labour Day weekend of 1906 Clappé took part in an unusual event. His former Canadian regiment, the Governor General's Foot Guards, was making a visit to New York City and West Point. It marked the first time that British/Canadian 'redcoats' had carried arms in the city since the Revolutionary War. Clappé was able to meet with his former band and to mark the occasion composed the GGFG Two-Step. The Governor General's Foot Guards Band was directed by Bandmaster Joseph Miller Brown who had at one time played cornet in the West Point Band.


Clappé 's experience at Kneller Hall in England, with the Canadian Militia Bands, and with military music in the United States gave him a wealth of experience and knowledge in the field. He came to the conclusion that the US military's system of recruiting musicians, and in particular Bandmasters, needed improvement. Clappé felt that the average US Army bandmaster lacked appropriate musical qualifications. There was no formal mechanism for accessing and choosing bandmasters; such appointments were usually done at a regimental level.  He had advocated remedial measures in his books and through his articles in The Dominant Magazine. In 1910 he approached Dr. Frank Damrosch, the distinguished musician and educator, with a plan to change that situation. Amongst Damrosch's many activities was the 'Institute of Musical Arts', which was devoted to musical training[23].  Clappé proposed to Damrosch that a department for training military bandmasters be established at the Institute. He further suggested that the Institute offer ten scholarships in the program, five to be offered in the first year and five in a second year. Damrosch accepted Clappé 's proposal and put it to the Secretary of War. The Secretary accepted the proposal and steps were taken to affect the offer. The Band Leader School was established at Fort Jay, Governor's Island, New York City. Five students were selected out of ten candidates and the school opened in October 1911 with Clappé as the Principal. The program proved to be a success and in 1912 the selection process was repeated and ten more candidates were selected. The first class graduated in 1913[24]. Clappé's experience at the Royal Military School of Music was an influence on the course's content, as was Frank Damrosch's background with German and French music practices. The curriculum included musical form, the history of music, ear training, instrumentation, arranging and conducting - all with the emphasis on the military wind band. Instructors were selected from the best available. Later, in 1914, a twenty-five member band was added to the school to enable the students to gain practical experience. The school continued to grow and prosper coinciding with an authorized increase in the number of army bands. A portion of each day was devoted to choral work, as Clappé firmly believed in singing to be an important element for the morale of soldiers.


The entry of the United States into World War One brought a profound change in the status of the country's military bands. When General John 'Black Jack' Pershing went to Europe as head of the US Expeditionary Force he was impressed with the musical capabilities of the French and British military bands in comparison with the US Army bands. He took steps to increase the US bands from twenty-eight members to forty-eight. He also established a military school of music in France in which the students were taught by professors from the Paris Conservatoire. He also initiated commissions to officer rank for army bandmasters.


The opinions of one of the most important of wind band music composers come into the story at this point. In 1917 Percy Grainger enlisted as a musician in the US Army. After a period with an artillery band playing saxophone and oboe, he was posted to the Band Leader School as an Assistant Instructor. It was there he came into contact with Clappé's ideas of band instrumentation which had an effect on Grainger's band compositions.  In his biography of Percy Grainger, John Bird says that “Grainger's admiration for the man (Clappé) bordered on adulation.”[25] Grainger also recalled that Clappé “...was a Buddhist and a man of gentle and saintly behaviour.”[26]

In his essay Possibilities of the Concert Wind Band from the Standpoint of a Modern Composer Grainger said “Mr. Clappé...has furthermore demonstrated in practice the truth and practicability of his theories in the beautifully balanced 'Institute of Musical Arts' Band that he has built up at the Army Music Training School at Governor's Island of which he is principal. When I first heard this band, at a concert at Washington Irving High School, with its quintet of saxophones, its quartet of alto and bass clarinets, its quartet of oboes, bass oboe and bassoon, with the tone of its well-rounded brass section so proportioned and controlled so as to never to (except for quite special intentional effects) obscure or over-blare the more subtly expressive sound colours of its unusually complete woodwind sections, I realized, more than ever before, the truly immense potential of the concert wind band as an emotional musical medium.[27]” One could safely assume that Grainger absorbed Clappé 's ideas and incorporated them in forging his own works which have become such an important part of band repertoire.

During this period Clappé was heavily engaged in making recommendations to the Secretary of War in regard to the composition of army bands and their operation. He was not the only person involved in the process. There grew a conflict between those who advocated adopting the French Army bands as a model (particularly in instrumentation), and those – such as Clappé – who advocated an American approach. But in Clappé's case an approach that was influenced by his own musical development, which was in turn influenced by the British military band system. The influential General Pershing was leading the drive to change US Army bands, and he was receiving advice on how to do so from French military and American civilian musicians. The proposals of these people caused great frustration to Clappé. “Untested theories, individual preferences, and the opinions of musicians, however expert in their specialities, can be of little, if any value in reaching any decision involving, as it would, large expenditures for additional instruments, as well as the question of the permanent instrumental composition of Army bands.”[28] In another statement in regard to the proposed instrumentation he said :” There were included certain instruments which were not scored for by Americans and rarely used by Englishmen.” [29]Regarding Pershing's list of recommended march music he said: “The French marches mentioned are unknown to me. Those by American writers are good and well known. There will be many others issued by domestic publishers, by writers such as Reeves, Hall, Pryor, Innes, etc., which have sterling merit. Some of, if not all, the best American marches are already in possession of bands of the Regular Army.” [30]


There was a great deal of discussion and memos amongst the various protagonists regarding the training of Bandmasters and band musicians, the content of the Army Music School courses, band instrumentation, and the balance of instruments within the band. In July/August 1918 a special board was convened at the Army Music School to decide on the appropriate instrumentation of a 48 member military band. The following instrumentation was eventually approved[31]:


2 Flutes (one doubling piccolo)

2 Oboes (to play Soprano Saxophone for marching)

2 Bassoons (to play snare drum and cymbals for marching)

1 Eb Clarinet

10 Bb Clarinets

2 alto Clarinets

2 bass Clarinets

3 Saxophones (one each of alto, tenor and baritone)

1 Contra Bass Sarrusophone

4 Bb Trumpets

2 Bb Cornets (or Flugelhorns)

4 French horns (Alto horn for mounted bands)

3 Bb Trombones (slide or valve)

1 Bass Trombone

2 Baritone/Euphoniums

4 Basses (2Eb – 2 BBb)

3 Percussion


With minor variations this closely resembles the balance and type of instrumentation recommended by Clappé in his book The Wind Band and Its Instruments.


The end of World War One brought to a close much of this discussion as the American armed forces adjusted to peace time conditions and the reduction in establishment, including bands. But Clappé 's ideas had influenced the upcoming generation of Army Bandmasters that he had taught at the Band Leader School. It can be seen that the post-World War One structure of US Army bands owed a great deal to Clappé 's influence.


Clappé was commissioned as a Captain in the US Army in October 1918 (he had been a civilian while with the Army Band Leader School) and posted to Washington to effect plans for bands in the peacetime US Army. He thereafter spent his time between Fort Jay and the War Department in Washington. The March 1919 issue of The Infantry Journal contained an article by Clappé titled Music as a Moral Force on Morale.


In July 1919 Jacob's Band Monthly, a widely circulated publication, had a profile of Clappé in its series Famous Bandmasters in Brief. The author Frank R. Seltzer had the following comments about Clappé: “The subject of this month's sketch of Bandmasters in Brief has always been a most genial fellow, and knows music in its every form. Of a dignified and stately mien, well and broadly read (he has found time to study other subjects besides music), quick to catch a situation which requires alert treatment and ready at all times to assist others in their ambition to learn music in its various branches, it is no wonder that Captain Clappé is one of the most popular men of the music profession.”


In 1920 he became ill with what were described as 'complicated internal troubles[32], and died of cancer on November 22, 1920. His remains were cremated and interned at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington on November 27, 1920.[33] His headstone bears the notation 'Founder of The Army Music School'. [34]


William C. White, (Clappé's protégé, former pupil and later Assistant at Fort Jay) who had graduated from the Band Leaders Course was appointed to succeed Clappé, and another graduate John S. Martin was appointed Assistant Principal. In September 1921 the Army Music School was moved to Washington DC, and also ended the connection with the Damrosch's Institute of Musical Art. In 1928, because of budget restrictions, the army closed the school, reopening it in 1941 to once again train army bandmasters. From 1956 to the early 2000s, the US Army music element conducted training in conjunction with the US Navy's School of Music.


Clappé's book The Principles of Wind Band Transcription was published posthumously in 1921. It received wide distribution and was no doubt a great influence on the composers and arrangers of band music published in subsequent years. Copies are still available for sale through used book sellers.


In that book Clappé states that the essential qualifications of a bandmaster should include:


1 – Skill on some wind instrument in particular.

2 – Practical knowledge of all other wind instruments, that is, to be able to play them more or less well.

3 – Knowledge of the theory and practice of music, including harmony, counterpoint, composition, forms, and acquaintance with acoustics in relation to wind instruments, as well as musical history in general and in particular.

4 – Capacity to read “scores” and interpret them.

5 – Pedagogic ability; teaching, tuning and toning of the wind band and

5 – Capacity for direction, otherwise conducting.[35]


In another area of his book Clappé says: “The orchestra, through length of years of service and writings of great composers, has acquired a settled or conventional form. The band, younger in the art world, never taken seriously by the masters, is still chaotic, no agreement having been reached as to numbers, combinations of individual or family of instrument requisite to create an organization, that shall, to their limitation, fulfil the demands of art and become satisfying to composers and connoisseurs. Every bandmaster appears to be a law unto himself in the matter of tonal balance and proprieties (or improprieties) of band formation. Few, if any, recognize that homogeneity can only be accomplished by philosophical consideration of the mechanical, acoustical nature of wind instruments, as well as the aesthetic quality of their tones and the adaption of the principles gained from such consideration to the elements of the organization under their control.”[36] He goes on to say: “From the foregoing remarks and presentations in tabular form it will be apparent that band instrumentation is yet in chaotic condition. That remedy lies in the hands of composers. If only they can be brought to consider the wind-band seriously, and recognizing its potentialities as an art factor, be inclined to write works suited to its genus, taking into account its remarkable variety of voicing, its infinite shades of tone colour, order will result. He who can and will evolve order from this chaos will earn a niche for himself in the Hall of Fame, and without doubt some consideration tangible and immediately available for mundane comforts.” [37]


From a study of Arthur A. Clappé's career it is evident that he was in a great part responsible himself for the 'evolving of order from this chaos'. The many students who went through his bandmaster course went out to apply the principles learned to their work and passed on that knowledge to succeeding generations.   Others did so by reading his books and treatises. It may truly be said that he is the 'Father of the modern American military band'.





Special thanks to Chalon Ragsdale for providing original source material. In addition, the author is indebted to Patricia Marshall and Robin Rodger, both descendants of A. A. Clappe's English family, for supplying valuable information.



Listing of Known Compositions by A.A. Clappé

(Publishers names listed if known)


Andante and Polacca for Clarinet and Piano (PEL Music) 1878

Canada's Welcome, a masque – (MacLean, Rogers Ottawa) 1879

Christopher Columbus March - (Fischer) 1888

Close of Day, The – W.F. Shaw NY 1884

Colonel Kopper's 71st Regiment March – (Fischer) 1888

Colonel Mercur Quick March - (Fischer) 1892

The Dominion Grand March - (Fischer)

Dreams of Youth Waltz (1887) - (Coleman 1894)

Esprit de Corps March – (Fischer) 1883

Farewall Waltzes - 1878

Fearless March – (Fischer) 1888

Funeral Marches No. 1 & No.2

GGFG Two Step – 1906

Gloria Tibi – mixed voices 1892

Grand Fantasia “Scotia” 1888

Grand Processional March 1882

Hail to the Flag (with choir)

Hearts Ease Polka (Fischer) 1885 – Euphonium solo

Hungarian Dance “Kossuth” 1892

Jubilant Deo Grand Sacred Melody 1892

King Thistle March - (Slater) 1910

Osian March (Dominant)

Le Petit Roi – (Fischer) 1888

Quick March Medleys No. 1 & No.2 (Fischer)

Quick March for Open Column – (Fischer)

Quick Step March for Quarter Distance Column (Fischer)

Remember The Maine 1889

Return of the Admiral -1899

Sans Souci Polka – (Fischer) 1885, Cornet Solo

Softly Round Thy Pillow - 1878

Strawberry Waltz – (Slater) 1909

Tadeusz Kosciusko Polonaise - (Fischer) 1920

Taps Quick March – (Monfort) 1892

There Is rest In Heaven – (Fischer)

Through Death To Life Eternal – (Fischer)

Uncle Rastus, Negro Dance – (Coleman) 1891

United Empire Waltz – 1878

US Military Academy Slow March

Waltz 'Army Blue'

Wood Nymphs Valse – C.J. Whitney, Detroit 1880




Band Teacher's Assistant, The - Carl Fischer NY 1888

Musical Essays - Pertaining Particularly to Military Bands – USMA Press, West Point 1892

Self Help on the Cornet – Carl Fischer NY 1894

Wind Band and Its Instruments, The – H. Holt & Co. NY 1911

Principles of Wind Band Transcription – Carl Fischer NY 1921


NB – 'The Band Teacher's Assistant' and 'The Wind Band and Its Instruments' have recently been republished by Kessinger Publishing's Rare Reprints, PO Box 1401Whitefish, Montana USA in both hardcover and softcover editions.  Website:

In addition, many of Clappé 's books can be found at rare book dealer sites on the internet.




'A History of Military Music In America' – William Carter White, Greenwood Press, Westport Conn. 1944. White was a student of the Fort Jay, Band Leader School, and later Clappé's assistant at the School.


'The Wind-Band And Its Instruments' – A.A. Clappé – Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1911


'Musical Essays – Pertaining Particularly to Military Bands' - A.A. Clappé – USMA Press & Bindery, 1893


'A History of U.S. Army Bands' - US Army Element, School of Music, Norfolk Va. 2005


National Archives & Records Administration, Washington DC – various archive documents.


Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, University of Maryland – extracts from 'The Metronome' magazine.


The New York Times Archives – various newspaper clippings.


Canadian Census 1881


The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music – W.H. Rehrig, Integrity Press, Westerville Ohio 1991.


Extracts from 'The Metronome' and 'Jacob's Band Monthly' provided by W.H. Rehrig.


The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, Macmillan Press, 1986


Canada Gazette, Reports of the Deputy Adjutant General – various c.1880.


The Encyclopedia of Canadian Music – Univ. Of Toronto Press, Toronto,1981


USMA West Point, Library Special Collections – various documents.


A History of the United States Army Band to 1946 – Graduate Dissertation – David C. McCormick, North Western University, Evanston Ill. 1970.


'Percy Grainger' – John Bird, Oxford University Pres, 1999


'Historical Perspective on The President's Own United States Marine Band” – US Government Printing Office 1998


Note: Most of Clappé's service records were lost in a 1973 fire at the US National Personnel Records Center that destroyed all records of veterans discharged or deceased between Nov. 1, 1912 and Dec. 31, 1959.


[1].  A United States Treasury Department document of January 13, 1921 completed by Margaret I.  Clappé showed A.A. Clappé's father's Christian name to be 'George' which is incorrect. Other documents such as birth and marriage certificates confirm his father's name as 'William'. Also, there was no acute accent over the final of his father's surname. The use of the acute accent over the final e of Clappé appears to have been instituted by Arthur A. Clappé and followed by his descendants.

2. Letter to author from Major R.G. Swift, Archivist RMSM June 16, 2009.

3.  W.C. White in his book A History of Military Music in America states that Clappé was for a time a member of the faculty of the RMSM as professor of oboe, harmony and Solfeggio”. He is not listed as such in the Turner history of RMSM “The Trumpet Shall Sound”, which records all staff members, nor does the RMSM archives have such recorded. Nor did he serve in India as White has suggested.  

4. This seems to have been a routine sinecure for Bandmaster of the GGFG. There is an apocryphal story that sometime in the 1930s a government inspector asked a civil servant what his job was at the Post Office Department, and the civil servant replied" I direct the GGFG Band".

[5].  Canada Gazette, Report of Military District No.1, October 10, 1884.

[6]. Edith Clappé married Willard Fairchild, a commercial artist and illustrator in November 1917. He was serving as a US Army Lieutenant at the time. He died in 1946, and Edith died January 12, 1973. A son, Willard Jr. (Bill) was killed early in WW2 while training as an army pilot. A daughter Margaret (Peggy) married, but died young., her five living descendants all reside in England. In addition to those descendants of his American family, there are over a hundred living descendants of Arthur's English family living in the United Kingdom, North America, and elsewhere.

[7].  Montague became a Solicitor in London, Arthur Jr. served with the Lothian & Border Horse Yeomanry in WW1, rising to the rank of Captain. Harold became a bank manager in Cardiff, Wales.

[8].  Not to be confused with the jazz magazine of a later era.

[9].  The Metronome Magazine, February 1885.

[10].  History of the 71st Regt. National Guard New York, Published by The Veterans' Association 71st Regt. 1919

[11].  Ibid

[12].  Ibid

[13].  The Metronome, February 1889, Page 13.

[14].  The Metronome, August 1889, Page 14

[15].  The Metronome. July 1894, Page 3 

[16].  Letter from USMA Superintendent to Adjutant General, February 2, 1891.

[17].  Ibid

[18].  Letters deposited in United States National Archives and Records Administration.

[19].  Historical perspective on The President's Own United States Marine Band -US Govt Printing Office Pg 18.

[20].  The Wall Street Journal p.A12, 7 Nov.1896. Fanciulli became Bandmaster of the 71st Regt. NYNG in 1897, retiring in 1903.  History of the 71st Regt. National Guard New York, Published by The Veteran's Association 71st Regt. 1919

[21].  New York Times, June 15, 1902

[22].  1910 US Census

[23].  The Institute later merged with the Juilliard Graduate School to become the renowned Juilliard School of Music.

[24].  The five students who graduated were Chief Musician Alfred J. Thomas 10th Cavalry, Principal Musician George A. Horton 3rd Cavalry, Corporal James B. Premitt Band 26th Infantry, Private Einar V. Sorensen 5th Band, Private William C. White 10th Band. William Carter White eventually became Director of Music of the US Army Music School, Washington. He authored several books on military music as well as several articles about A.A. Clappé. Unfortunately, his information about Clappé contains a number of   inaccuracies. These include the statement that Clappé's father was a Colonel of the British Army. Other inaccuracies have been previously noted. One can safely assume that this false information must have been provided to White by Clappé and wonder what Clappé 's motive was in doing so. These do seem to have been efforts by Clappé to conceal his origins and enhance his image and qualifications. Actions that, in retrospect, don't seem to have been necessary.

[25].  'Percy Grainger' John Bird, Oxford University Press 1999, Pg. 188.

[26].  Ibid – Clappé listed his religion as 'Church of England' in the 1881 Census of Canada. There is no evidence of his adopting the Buddhist faith.

[27].  Metronome Orchestra Monthly, November 1918

[28].  Quoted in McCormick – op. cit.

[29].  Ibid

[30].  Ibid

[31].  McCormick -op.cit.

[32].  The Metronome Magazine, Vol.37, January 1921.

[33].  US National Personnel Records Center – 'Walter Reed General Hospital Report of Death' Nov.27,1920

[34].  After her husband's death Mrs. Margaret Isabella Clappé resided for a time at 2590 Colchester Rd., Cleveland Ohio.

[35].  The Wind Band and Its Instruments – A.A. Clappé - Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1911 – Pg 149

[36].  Ibid, Page 35

[37].  Ibid, Page 48