Jules Levy (photo by Jose Maria Mora, 1880s)
  photo by José Maria Mora (NYC), 1880s
Jules Levy Residence

118th Street
New York, N.Y.



Jules Levy (1838-1903) was a cornetist, teacher, and composer. Born in London, England, he reportedly began his study of the cornet with only its mouthpiece; his family could not afford the instrument itself. He often played in the theatre and for the Royal Opera House Orchestra. It was the performance of his composition 'Whirlwind Polka", played between theatre scenes, that created a sensation. In 1865 he travelled with a troupe to America. His debut was at the Boston Music Hall on October 9, 1865. He returned to England and appeared on programs with the great opera singers of the time. On his return engagement to the U.S. in 1869, Levy was hired by Theodore Thomas to play solos in his summer concerts on Central Park, New York City. After immigrating to the United States, he began a significant musical career as a cornet soloist and was billed as The World's Greatest Cornetist. He was widely regarded as a foremost player, although the claim of World's Greatest has some challengers. He was a member of Patrick Gilmore's band for several years, performing with them at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. His fame grew through the rivalry that Gilmore fostered between Levy and cornetist Matthew Arbuckle: each stood on opposite sides of the conductor and would alternate with improvised variations on a particular melody as well as entering into other similar challenges.

Levy performed many pieces, among the most famous were "Una Voce" by Rossini, "Carnival of Venice", "Grand Russian Fantasia", and his favorite "Whirlwind Polka". He was arguably the first cornetist to be recorded, having participated in an early public demonstration of Thomas Edison's tinfoil phonograph. He later recorded commercially for Victor Records and Columbia Records.

In his last years Levy was employed as a tester for the C.G. Conn Co. in Elkhart, Indiana. At the time of his death, he was an employee of the Lyon and Healy Band Instrument Co. in Chicago, Illinois.

His son, Jules Levy, Jr., was also an accomplished cornetist and trumpeter. He recorded from 1919 to 1932, often with groups led by Joseph Samuels. Levy was briefly married to actress Mary “Minnie” Conway in the 1870s. Their son, Frederick Conway Levy, was the popular stage and screen actor Conway Tearle.

Jules Levy died at age 65 in Chicago, Illinois.
           
George Jardine & Son
New York City (1880)
Mechanical action
1 manual, 6 stops, 6 ranks
               
Manual
8
  Open Diapason
       
8
  Clariana
       
8
  Stopped Diapason
       
4
  Violino
       
2
  Flageolet
       
8
  Oboe
       
               
Pedal
  No stops; coupled to manual
     
           
Sources:
     The Musical Courier (Feb. 2, 1880). Specifications of Geo. Jardine & Son organ. Courtesy Larry Trupiano.

Illustration:
     Mora, Jose Maria (1880s). Portrait.