“Michigan State University’s original music man, Professor Leonard Falcone, took a military band and transformed it over the years into a trend-setting marching machine and a concert band par excellence, and in so doing, he influenced music around the world. The biography of this passionate and consummate Director of Bands at Michigan State University is a must-read for anyone who ever watched a Spartan Marching Band halftime show or listened to one of his unique concert performances. And if you did neither, this is still a must-read because there was only one Professor Leonard Falcone, and there will never be another.”

Tim Skubick
Hall of Fame broadcaster, former voice of the Spartan Marching Band, MSU Concert Band first clarinet (1963-67)

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Solid Brass by Rita Griffin Comstock

Solid Brass is the story of Leonard Falcone, whose journey to America from Italy through Ellis Island at age 16 led to one of the most unlikely and inspirational stories in the history of the American Band Movement. Recognized in his lifetime as the world’s greatest euphonium virtuoso, Falcone was Director of Bands at Michigan State University for 40 years, and through his leadership, discipline and musicianship, helped to establish a national reputation for the MSU Department of Music and Spartan Marching Band. Following his retirement as Director of Bands in 1966, he served the university for an additional 17 years as Professor of Low Brass.

Drawing from a myriad of sources, Rita Comstock’s insightful biography chronicles Falcone’s remarkable life, including his early years growing up in culturally rich Roseto Valfortore, Italy, his success as a silent movie theater musician, the music department challenges during the Depression and war years, the two Rose Bowl trips via private rail car courtesy of Oldsmobile, performing with the Michigan State Band for four sitting presidents, and his special relationship with Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, where he would spend his final summers conducting and working with young students.

Through it all, Leonard Falcone’s greatest legacy was the example he set as a man of honesty and integrity, who valued his family, his adopted country, and the importance of striving for excellence.

“He was the most thorough musician I’ve ever seen. Wonderful as a conductor, a performer. I never saw him make a mistake. Mr. Falcone make a mistake? Unheard of! It was a gift. His most important contribution was in developing one of the finest college bands in the country.”

Dr. Harry Begian, Director of Bands at Wayne State University (1964–1967
Michigan State University (1967–1970), and the University of Illinois (1970–1984)

“He was a musical icon. Though Professor Falcone never discussed with me anything like the meaning of life, religion, politics, or philosophy, by example, he always set the highest standard for honesty and personal integrity in all he did.”

Fritz Stansell
Founder and President, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp

“Leonard Falcone was like a father to me. He was one of the warmest and most musical human beings I have ever known. I will never forget him, and the world shouldn’t either! He was revered in the profession of band conducting as being one of its giants, not only as a conductor, but as an arranger, and his reputation nationally was unequalled as a
euphonium soloist.”

Ken Bloomquist
Michigan State University Director of Bands (1970–1977)
and College of Music Chair (1978–1988)

“I have been proud to be part of a university whose conductor of bands was so progressive in bringing his students into the music world of wind ensembles, wind orchestras, and various wind and chamber organizations. His incomparable musicianship elevated BANDS to higher levels.”

Dr. James Niblock
Michigan State University Distinguished Faculty Member (1948–1985)
and College of Music Chair (1970–1985)

“Leonard Falcone made an enormous impact on the music world, and how he did it is both complex and simple. The sheer force of his dedication and his enormous talent play a large role, but perhaps most important of all, the lesson of his life is that he was a hero as a human being.”

Myron Welch
Director of Bands, University of Iowa (1980–2008)

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