When the history of instrumental music education of the Twentieth Century is written, the name, William Revelli, will be everywhere and inescapable. At the time of his death in 1994, at the age of 92, he was regarded as one of the great music educators and band conductors of the century. During his long career, he had received every honor and accolade imaginable. Revelli was on a first name basis with the likes of Percy Grainger, Karel Husa, Morton Gould, Vincent Persichetti, George Szell, Eugene Ormandy, William Schumann, Gunther Schuller, Jean Pierre Rampal, and a host of others whose names read like a Who’s Who of music.
Revelli studied violin as a young boy and as a young man moved to Chicago to perform in theatre pit orchestras. When the first “talkies” came out, many pit musicians found themselves out of work. Revelli heard about, and accepted, a job as the band director at Hobart High School in Hobart, Indiana.
Revelli’s years at Hobart High School are legendary. Under his direction, the band was named champion at the prestigious National Band Contest in 1930-31 and 1933-34 (the contest was suspended in 1932 due to economic conditions).
When the job of director of bands became open at the University of Michigan, he was encouraged to apply, although he first thought that he could not afford to take the lower paying job at Michigan (which paid less than he was earning at Hobart) However, at the encouragement of his wife, Mary, Revelli accepted the position at the University of Michigan. Revelli remained at Michigan for 37 years, until his retirement. His bands traveled world-wide and Revelli’s influence is still felt in band halls today.
Revelli was a Founder and Honorary Life President of the College Band Directors National Association, Past President of the National Band Association and the American Bandmasters Association and Honorary Life Member of the American Bandmasters Association.
No person who every performed under Revelli’s baton in his Michigan, Hobart or hundreds of honor bands that he conducted is without a story about him. He demanded the best of his students, and got it!