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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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DI TELLA, Ferdinand

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Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
DI TELLA, Ferdinand. (New York, NY, Dec. 25, 1902--Dubuque, IA, Mar. 19, 1948). Di Tella graduated from the Juilliard School of Music in New York, Chicago Musical College, and the University of Mexico. Prior to returning to Dubuque, he conducted a theater orchestra for the Sanger chain of theaters in the south. One orchestra he conducted accompanied the famous silent film, "Birth of a Nation."

Di Tella was employed as a part-time band instructor at DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL in 1923. Between 1924 and 1929 he organized bands and orchestras in many small communities near Dubuque and served as the instrumental music supervisor in the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT. (1) He helped pay for a better French horn for John GRAAS to replace the one the boy had found at the DUBUQUE BOYS' CLUB. In 1930 he organized and directed the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE symphony orchestra. (2) One of his students, Jack JENNEY, went on to become one of the jazz elite.

Di Tella served as director of the university band and orchestra from 1931 until 1946. He also gave private violin lessons, judged music contests, and designed clinics where he served as the master teacher. Frustrated by low pay and administrative support for building up the music department, he submitted his letter of resignation in July, 1946 to become the manager of the Maid-Rite Restaurant at 132 8th Avenue. (3)



1. "Public School Concert Set for Monday," Telegraph-Herald, February 26, 1948, p. 22

2. "U. of Dubuque Concert Band of Offer Program," Telegraph-Herald, March 18, 1934, p. 13

3. "Board Refuses Di Tella Plea," Telegraph-Herald, July 3, 1946, p. 12