In memoriam: Gil Mitchell (1925-2016)
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Gilbert H. Mitchell died peacefully on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Beloved husband, father, grandfather and Conductor Emeritus of The United States Army Band in Washington, DC, he will be forever remembered for his impeccable musical artistry, leadership and teaching acumen.
Gilbert Mitchell was born in Lykens, Pennsylvania, a small town between Harrisburg and Pottsville, Pennsylvania on April 4, 1925. He began the study of cornet at an early age with Harry McCall, a local bandsman. As a seventh grader he began further studies with C. Eugene Erb, a pupil of Frank Simon. Mitchell began study with Ernest Williams when he was a tenth grader and later attended the Williams summer band camp. At the Williams summer band camp he studied voice with Cecil Jacobson, composition and arranging with Erik Leidzen and conducting and solfeggio with Pierre Henrotte, concertmaster and conductor of the Metropolitan Opera.
Gil began his musical career playing trumpet with the Radio City Music Hall Symphony Orchestra, the New York City Symphony under the direction of Leopold Stokowski and the New Orleans Symphony conducted by Massimo Freccia. Concurrently, he played with the Les Brown Band and at New York’s Copacabana Night Club in the summer months.
In 1946, Mitchell was drafted into the Army. During basic training, he was given orders to report to The U.S. Army Band in Washington, DC. As a result of his audition at The U.S. Army Band, he was assigned there as cornet and trumpet player. At that time, The U.S. Army Band was under the leadership of Capt. Hugh Curry. After spending one year with the band, Mitchell decided to make that his full time career and was soon advanced to the position of Principal Cornettist. He co-founded and directed The U.S. Army Band’s brilliant Herald Trumpets. In September 1960, in an unprecedented move in Army music, Mitchell was promoted from Master Sergeant to Captain and appointed Assistant Leader. He retired from the band on November 30, 1970 as Associate Conductor and in the grade of Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services.
Retirement from the service was only the beginning of several new careers for Gilbert Mitchell. For five years, he was conductor of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Symphony Orchestra and for ten years, he was the conductor of the Northern Virginia Chamber Orchestra playing for children throughout the State of Virginia in various venues. For 13 years, he was professor of trumpet at George Mason University. In 1997, he formed the Brass of Peace in order to create a more enriched musical experience for his talented trumpet students. Many Brass of Peace alumni have gone on to conservatories such as the Curtis Institute of Music, Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, Juilliard School, as well as Indiana University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan and other fine schools. Many graduates of Brass of Peace have also gone on to become employed in the Nation's symphony orchestras and orchestras throughout the world, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony and the Portland Symphony.
Mitchell received the ITG Award of Merit in 2009.
Gil Mitchell was preceded in death by his wife of 43 years, Joyce S. Mitchell. He is survived by a sister, Marilyn Reedinger of Lykens, Pennsylvania; daughters, Lisa Galoci of Manassas, Virginia and Megan Kabatt of Exton, Pennsylvania and six grandchildren.
A public military funeral and interment with funeral honors will take place at Arlington National Cemetery at a future date.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Gil’s memory be made to the Brass of Peace, a youth musical ensemble founded by Gil to foster and encourage musical excellence. Such donations may be made through their website at brassofpeace.org.
Source: Col. (Ret.) Thomas Rotondi, Jr., former leader and Commander, The US Army Band "Pershing's Own"