Friday, July 12, 2013

William F. Peters, Composer

William Frederick Peters was born in Sandusky, Ohio in 1871 to Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Peters; he graduated from Sandusky High School in 1891.  He is pictured above with his student Reber N. Johnson in 1896. Mr. Peters received his musical education in Leipzig, Germany.  In the 1890s, William F. Peters composed The Alpha Tau Omega Waltzes, The Elks March, and The Catalpa Waltz. Copies of these compositions are held in the historical collections of the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. (Inquire at the Reference Services desk at the Sandusky Library if you would like to view them.)

William F. Peters was the music director of the Empire Stock Company for twelve years, working with Charles Frohman and David Belasco. He wrote the music for Robert H. McLaughlin’s drama, “The Rites of Spring,” which premiered at the Euclid Avenue Opera House in Cleveland, Ohio in 1920.  The New York Times of December 2, 1938 stated that he was “the first composer to write an original score for the movies.” Some of his notable scores include: “The Four Feathers,” “The Hungarian Rhapsody,” and “Orphans of the Storm.”  You can view the titles of several of his compositions at the Internet Broadway Database and the Internet Movie Database. The National Jukebox project of the Library of Congress features four recordings of William F. Peters compositions. 

After suffering from heart disease for several months, William F. Peters died at his home in Englewood, New Jersey on December 1, 1938. Funeral services for Mr. Peters were held in Manhattan, and burial was in Hartsdale, New York. Obituaries were published locally in the Sandusky Register and the Sandusky Star Journal.

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