Leonard V. Falcone:
MSU's Musical Pioneer
Leonard Vincent Falcone was born April 5, 1899 in Roseto Valfortore, a Province of Foggia, Italy, one of Dominico and Maria Filippa (Finelli) Falcone's seven children. Falcone began his musical career in 1908 at the age of 9 playing the alto horn in the prestigious town band, known as the Roseto Valfortore Band or the "Banda Municipale," directed by the famous Donato Donatelli, Neapolitan Bandmaster.
Leonard's brother, Nicholas, also was a member of the band. Nicholas emigrated to the United States in 1912 to pursue a career in music. In 1915, at the advent of World War I, Leonard joined him. Nicholas found work in Ann Arbor as a tailor and clarinet player in a theater. Upon arriving in Michigan, Leonard became a tailor's assistant, and as a trombonist in a silent movie theater band in Ypsilanti that his brother conducted.
In 1917, Leonard Falcone enrolled part time at Michigan's University School of Music, while continuing to play in theaters. He was granted citizenship in 1924, and in 1926 graduated with a diploma in the violin. During this time, Nicholas had been appointed director of the Varsity Band at the University of Michigan. The Falcone brothers began to develop a sound reputation as musicians and conductors in the Ann Arbor community. The secretary of Michigan State College contacted the treasurer of the University of Michigan and requested his recommendation for the position of Director of Bands at Michigan State. Both brothers were seriously considered for the position, but since Nicholas was settled with a wife and child in Ann Arbor, it was decided that Leonard, the bachelor, should take the position in East Lansing.
Leonard became the director of Michigan State College Military Band in September 1927. The band consisted of 65 members and performed for all occasions, including concerts and military and athletics events. By the fall of 1928, the Michigan State Institute of Music and Arts was established and Leonard was listed as director of the band and instructor of wind instruments and Italian. Although the football team performed poorly during the 1916-32 football seasons, the band steadily built a strong reputation.