Custer's Last Band: Original compositions of Felix Vinatieri, Custer's legendary bandmaster To be heard for the first time in 125 years ? The music that was a part of the daily lives and the aural memories of George W. Custer and his men during the last three years of their lives will be heard again for the first time in 125 years at the Summit Center Auditorium in Yankton on June 13 at 8 p.m.
Based on rare manuscripts from the archives of America's Shrine to Music Museum on the campus of The University of South Dakota in Vermillion, the compositions were written specifically for Custer and his men by Felix Vinatieri, Custer's legendary bandmaster. They will be revived during the live concert by The New Custer Brass Band from Los Angeles, led by Steve Charpi�, and in a CD to be releases by the museum.
Marking the 125th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the June 13 concert and national release of the CD, Custer's Last Band: Original Music by Felix Vinatieri, Custer's Legendary Bandmaster, will be played on original instruments of the period, including Vinatieri's own E-flat cornet from the Dakota Territorial Museum in Yankton.
It was in Yankton, then the capital of Dakota Territory, that Custer and Vinatieri first met, when Vinatieri and his local musicians played for a ball to honor Custer and the officers of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment on April 24, 1873.
Vinatieri (1834-1891), the first musician of note to have lived and worked in Dakota Territory, was an immigrant Italian bandsman who came to the United States in 1859. He served as an infantry musician during the Civil War, was later sent west, and was discharged in December 1870 at Fort Sully in Dakota Territory.
He then settled in Yankton, where he met Anna Frances Fejfar, the 16-year-old daughter of an immigrant Czech family. They were married by Dr. Joseph Ward, founder of Yankton College, in 1871.
When Custer heard Vinatieri's music, he asked him to join the Seventh Cavalry as chief musician. On May 7, 1873, Vinatieri left Yankton with the regiment for the long trek to Fort Lincoln in northern Dakota. Vinatieri had signed up for a three-year hitch.
The band accompanied Custer when he explored the Black Hills in 1874, leading to the discovery of gold. Vinatieri's original music � and unique titles � included Sound from the Black Hills Polka, The Moskitoes Bites of Dakota Waltz, and Sounds from Fort Abraham Lincoln.
In 1876, when Custer headed west toward the Little Big Horn, the band went along, but remained on the steamboat, the Far West. The rest is history.
In December, Vinatieri was discharged. He returned to Yankton, where he spent the rest of his life. After his death, the music manuscripts remained with his family until they were presented to the Shrine to Music Museum in the 1970s.
Preferred-seating advance tickets for the June 13 performance are $10 for adults and $5 for children. They can be bought in Yankton at Evie's Hallmark, HyVee, Rexall Drug, and the Dakota Territorial Museum or by calling America's Shrine to Music Museum (Visa, MC) at 605-677-5306.