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Dr. Edward D’Anna was, in his day, the most famous musician in the city of Niagara Falls, known locally, nationally and internationally. He worked his entire career here and brought fame to the city as a home for great music and talented musicians. Influenced by his father, a professional musician and bandmaster in the British Navy, he started playing piano and cornet at the age of 6.

Blessed with ‘perfect pitch’, he excelled at the cornet and piano while demonstrating proficiency on brass or woodwind instruments. At the age of 15, he was the chief bugler in Princess Beatrice’s Regiment. At 16, he received a royal commission as pianist for the princess, the daughter of Queen Victoria, to play at her many social functions.

At Victoria’s funeral procession he played first cornet in the accompanying battalion band. At 19, he followed his father to America, moving to Niagara Falls in 1906. His first job was as a piano player at the International Theater. With his keen ear and sense of music, his natural ability to teach, and skill with many different instruments, it wasn’t long until he directed the orchestra at the Strand Theater.

By 1907 he worked to organize, train and direct the Elks Concert Band, the first of the Niagara Falls concert bands for which he, and the city of Niagara Falls, would become nationally famous and known around the world. In 1908 the band was hailed as ‘One of the best of its kind in Western New York,’ and he as, ‘a most capable leader.’ By 1911, the stature of the Elk’s Band had grown and the band was now being sponsored by the Shredded Wheat Company. Edward was employed to provide instrumental music instruction to Shredded Wheat employees and was named director of the Shredded Wheat Choral Society.

He organized the first Niagara Falls Symphony Concert Band with Shredded Wheat sponsorship and conducted their inaugural concert to hyperbolic acclaim. It had grown to a size of 50 orchestral musicians plus a pipe and drum section of 35 more and was said to be the second largest professional band in the country at the time.

In 1922, the now-called Shredded Wheat Band, under his direction, played the first of many years of nationally broadcast radio concerts. Heard as far away as San Francisco and Winnipeg, Manitoba, the band was introduced as the United States' most famous band. In 1926, Carborundum sponsored The Carborundum Hour, a weekly radio program on the Columbia Broadcasting System featuring the band in weekly concerts. The show was broadcast from 1926 through 1938. Every week, in every newspaper in the country, the printed radio programs would read, ‘Concert band, Edward D’Anna conductor’ or simply, ‘Edward D’Anna Band.’ The band was regarded as a civic treasure and great advertising for the city. Broadcasts originated from the ballroom of the Hotel Niagara, and also from Prospect Park and Hyde Park during outdoor public performances.

By 1936, the CBS broadcasts were being repeated by two shortwave stations to a worldwide audience. In 1937, the FDR New Deal WPA extended employment opportunities to professional musicians who were increasingly being displaced by recorded music, and Edward D’Anna served as the organizer and director of the Niagara WPA orchestra.

In 1938, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree by the Dana Musical Institute during an unscheduled ceremony in the middle of a Hyde Park concert, to the great pleasure of an appreciative crowd. He continued to give regular public performances as a conductor (and, occasionally, soloist) for many years and for many musical organizations in and around the city. He remained active in music education and continued to conduct weekly concerts in the summer until he retired and moved to California in 1961 at age 81.

His career extended to over fifty years in the Niagara Falls area and he has been called, ‘The Dean of Niagara Falls music.’ Long overdue, it is an exceptional pleasure to honor Dr. Edward D’Anna and his legacy in the Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

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