Past Treasure of the Month – September 2014
During the month of September, Rosenberg Library exhibited items related to one of the island’s best-known musicians, Felix Stella. Stella directed the Galveston Municipal Band (the predecessor to today’s Galveston Beach Band) from its founding in 1928 until his death in 1962. Included in the display are his band director’s hat, several American Federation of Musicians convention badges, and promotional materials from his music studio.
Felix Stella’s Early Years
Born in Austria in 1884, Felix Stella immigrated to Galveston with his family in 1898. He became interested in music at a young age and studied violin and clarinet with Professor E. Lindenberg. Under Lindenberg’s direction, Stella performed with local bands at the Garten Verein, Queen Theater, Grand Opera House, People’s Theater, and Crystal Theater. Eventually, Stella became a music teacher and band director himself. He opened Felix Stella’s Music Studio at his residence on 17th Street where he gave private music lessons. Stella was an active member of various musical and social organizations in Galveston including the El Mina Shrine Temple.
In 1922, at age 38, he organized the Galveston Melody Orchestra. This group, which was made up mostly of his students, played at public functions and charity events.
Founder and director Felix Stella is standing on the left.
A Band for the City
In 1927, citizens voted for a tax to fund a city-supported band. The following year, the Galveston Municipal Band was created, with Felix Stella appointed as its director. Galveston Municipal Band presented a summer concert series, performing three evenings each week at the Menard Park band shell on Seawall Boulevard near 27th Street.
When Felix Stella was interviewed for a news article in the 1950s, he noted that when he started his career in the early 1900s, professional musicians had many more opportunities for gainful employment than they did in later decades. During the silent-movie era, musicians played live scores to accompany films. Likewise, extravagant social events with musical performances were more commonplace. By the 1950s, most musicians had to have second jobs in order to cover living expenses. Despite leading various bands in the city, Stella also had to teach music lessons to earn additional income.
During the 1960 season, visitors from forty-five Texas cities, thirteen states, and two foreign countries attended Galveston Municipal Band concerts. Performances were held on Wednesday and Sunday evenings with several hundred people in the audience at each show.
Director Felix Stella is standing in the front row, far right.
Today’s Galveston Beach Band
The Galveston Municipal Band entered a period of decline in the 1960s following the death of Felix Stella. However, a new leader — Frank Incaprera — later revived the group which became known as the Galveston Beach Band. The band is now led by his son, Frank Incaprera, Jr. Since the 1980s, their summer concerts have been held at Rosenberg Library’s Mary Moody Northen Plaza under the Sealy Pavilion at 24th Street and Sealy Avenue. These free musical performances take place on Tuesday evenings in June, July, and August, providing memorable entertainment for adults and children alike.