History of The Trail Maple Leaf Band

The Band first appeared at local (Trail) Colombo Lodge functions in 1911 but was called the "Italian Band." A new name was chosen by contest and the Band became known by 1917 as the "The Trail Maple Leaf Band". Under the direction of Frank Giovanazzi there was a membership of 72 musicians.

To ensure ongoing access to music by generations to come in the community, a plan was devised in the late 1920s to create a formal music program to train young musicians with the skills to later move into openings in the (senior) Maple Leaf Band. The first conductor hired in 1928 to be the teacher of the program was G.D. Colistro, a maestro from Calabria, Italy. Parents of the students, all boys, were charged a fee to support the conductor and the junior and senior bands. There was considerable pressure on boys over 10 years old to sign up. Though the classes were in Italian, boys of other ethnic backgrounds soon joined, and the number of members was maintained at about 45. This was a real hey-day for bands locally and across the country with three or more large concert and marching bands in Trail, as well as bands in Rossland, Nelson and other towns, along with numerous smaller ensembles.

The 1930s was an active time for the Trail Maple Leaf Band with much travel to Vancouver, Calgary, Spokane, Kelowna, and Cranbrook, as well as participation in local community events. There was much support for travel costs and missed wages from the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co (precursor to Cominco and Teck). Tito Allega, violinist, pianist and composer was hired in 1930 to teach and conduct the band. His strong disciplinary methods, fiery temper and demand for perfection were well noted, but he delivered top results. He left Trail in 1940 to conduct the Hamilton Symphony. His successor, Adelmo Ghetti, a semi-retired musician from the Milan Opera, brought a much softer style of leadership. During his short tenure he left a great impact on the music community and on at least one occasion led the Band to give a "polished performance" at the Kelowna Regatta, despite some challenging weather.

World War II had a huge effect on the Band. Italians immigrating to the area after 1922 were deemed aliens and were required to prove loyalty to Canada. One band member, despite being vouched for by the City of Trail, was interned until 1945. Several band members volunteered for armed service or positions in military bands. Most returned to Trail after the war, but others moved on to music careers with groups such as the Vancouver Symphony and the Dal Richards Orchestra.

William (Mystery) DiPasquale became the sixth conductor of the band around 1943. He had come from Italy as a young boy in 1909 and had worked his way up through the Trail Maple Leaf Band as an accomplished clarinettist and assistant director. He was a tough but likeable and humourous character who fully dedicated 27 years of his life to conducting the band until his passing in 1970. His nickname came from his talking much about a popular movie of the time, "Million Dollar Mystery". The post war period of Mystery DiPasquale saw a return to travel by the Band, including many performances at the Kelowna Regatta. Famous musicians were also drawn to Trail to perform concerts with the Maple Leaf Band. The most notable was the world's greatest trumpet player at the time, Rafael Mendez, in 1953 and 1954.

In the 1960s, about the time the Band was celebrating 50 years of playing, an increase in school music education and private lessons competed against the Maple Leaf Band program. Also at this time, many young people were leaving town for university and jobs elsewhere. The numbers of band members fell. The junior band program was cancelled. Several other bands in the area folded. This was also a time of changing attitudes. The once boys-only Maple Leaf Band began having families join them for social activities and then in the mid-1970s, women were allowed into the band as member players.

Lorne DePaolis grew up in the Trail area and started with the Trail Maple Leaf Band as a young boy. He first became known as a budding new star player for the Smoke Eaters Hockey team but it was his outstanding skill on trumpet that made him a long time local celebrity. He passed up the bright lights and big city music career for the quiet Trail life and became the seventh conductor of the band in 1970, joined later by Dennis Truant who had studied clarinet under Mystery DiPasquale. Together they conducted the Band for 16 years. Dennis passed away in 1997 but Lorne continues to play trumpet in the Maple Leaf Band and other bands in the area (2014). Several of his fellow players who have also been with the Band for about 75 years continue to play in the Trail Maple Leaf Band.

Joseph Fuoco, a capable tuba player and composer/arranger, began conducting the Band in 1986. During his tenure, the Maple Leaf Band has accomplished the milestones of 75 and 90 years of playing and now sees the centennial of the band fast approaching in 2017. In 2014, after 28 years of leading the Band, Joseph has become the longest running conductor of the Trail Maple Leaf Band. He conducts an ever changing group of musicians of many skill sets, ages and backgrounds. Performances may be much more limited than in years past, mostly due to less financial support, but the Band produces a quality sound and in a typical season will play at a dozen local venues for concerts and parades.

A note of thanks to S. Guidone who prepared a history of the Trail Maple Leaf Band in 2007 and from which much of this historical information was taken.