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Playing in the Mohawk Mills Band

By: Bob Cudmore

Date: 2017-09-23

Playing in the Mohawk Mills Band
By Bob Cudmore, Focus on History, Daily Gazette, 09-23-17

As an Amsterdam reviewer wrote of the two-year old Mohawk Mills Band in 1929, “It is not easy for a group of men who have been working all day to devote a number of hours a week to the rehearsals which are necessary if the musicians are to give a convincing performance.”

The musicians played brass, woodwinds and percussion in the concert and marching band. Members came from all walks of life but the core group was from the carpet mills.

Sponsored by the Mohawk Mills Association, a company social group, the band was funded by the Shuttleworth family, who headed the firm.

Three brothers from the Musolff family were prime movers in the organization--Edward, Harry and Frank. The brothers were among seven children born to German immigrants Casimer Musolff and Louise Tollner.

Edward was a carpet designer and also a violinist. He performed with the WGY radio orchestra. Harry tended the belts which powered carpet mill equipment. As a musician he played cello and trombone. Frank was a carpet weaver whose instrument was the viola.

Edward and Harry were band directors at first and Frank was the librarian. Soon Edward became principal conductor.

Edward had the men play Charles Duble’s Bravura March at their first rehearsal and said that before the evening was over, the piece sounded “quite pleasing.” The band debuted at the 1927 company field day according to the mill publication Mohawk Courier.

The group prepared 74 pieces during its first year, rehearsing at least once a week with better than 90 percent attendance. Band members wore green and white uniforms.

Edward Musolff continued as band director until 1930 when, according to a relative, he died of an infection after a boil on his neck was lanced at the mill infirmary.

The next year John Arthur Maney conducted the band and made “steady progress” according to a 1931 account. Historian Hugh Donlon wrote that Maney was born in Pennsylvania and became a traveling musician. On his travels he met and married Ellen O’Neill of Amsterdam and settled in the city. He taught many instruments and led his own popular orchestra,

Maney’s hobby was photography and his pictures of local homes and industries have been used in history books, including Donlon’s “Annals of a Mill Town.”

Maney died in 1935 and his glass plate negatives were set out at the curb for trash pickup. Fortunately, a neighbor named Robert Fonda took the boxes from the curb. After Fonda’s death, according to Donlon, “some of the prints made from the plates” went to the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives.

Other 1930s conductors of the Mohawk Mills Band included Herman Minch and Harris Dersham. By 1936 another Musolff brother, Frank, became director of the band.

The band performed at Radio City Music Hall for a national radio broadcast sponsored by Mohawk Carpets. The musical group played at the Amsterdam premiere of the movie “Drums along the Mohawk” in 1939.

Frank Musolff left the band for military service in 1942 but returned after the war to conduct the band until 1951 when he moved to California.

The remaining Musolff, Harry, was active with the band in the 1950s. Music teacher Vincent Cresanti and musician Louis Vorse conducted the band, which performed summer concerts sponsored by the city recreation department.

In 1961 American Legion Post 701 took over sponsorship of the band from the carpet mill organization and Louis Vorse continued as music director. Jerry Culick became director of the Post 701 Band in 1963.

In later years the band was directed by George Vosburgh, a retired music teacher.

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