Arthur C. Kitti Era (1931-1939)

Arthur C. Kitti begins as director of The Huskies Pep Band (continues until 1939).

A native of Calumet, Michigan (just north of Michigan Tech), Arthur was born on October 13, 1893, to Henry A. and Mary Wickstrom Kitti, a pair of Finnish immigrants. Arthur’s family seems immense by today’s standards, as he was one of 13 Kitti children, but this family dynamic was fairly common in that day. However, his family was unique in how musical it was: his father played cornet and led multiple bands, and at least five of his siblings were either professional or amateur musicians. Arthur’s first performance came in one of the bands his father led, the Finnish Boys’ Band, and later he joined the Calumet High School Orchestra. As an indicator of his musical and academic talent, he was sent to represent his high school at a state conference in 1912, just before going to college at the Busch Conservatory in Chicago for music performance.

Like many students, Arthur was unsure of himself when he first entered the university, and for a time he left Busch to study at Manlius Military Academy in upstate New York. However, he regained his confidence and came back to Busch, making a name for himself as an excellent flutist. At one point while his student orchestra was practicing, the conductor deliberately stopped in the middle of a piece and asked, “Mr. Kitti, do you ever make a mistake?” After serving in the Navy as a bandleader during World War I, Kitti’s flawless playing would propel him into a position at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a flutist and the sole piccolo player for nearly ten years. Also, during the 1920s, he was an adjunct professor of flute performance at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, a position to which he would later return.

By 1930, Arthur was tiring of the city and illness forced him to take his leave of the symphony. He and his brother Carl toured Europe for a time, practicing with the influential French flutist Marcel Moyse for nearly a month. However, Arthur chose to return to the Keweenaw Peninsula and take up the Director of Bands position at the Michigan College of Mining and Technology in 1931. Michigan Tech’s ROTC Band had begun in 1928, but was by all accounts a mediocre group. By the time Arthur left, however, it was one of the best groups in the area, and his only regret with them was that he hadn’t challenged them enough as musicians. During this time, Arthur also led the all-male Glee Club and encouraged the Techcollegian Dance Band. …he formed Tri- Beta Honorary Band Fraternity on April 14, 1932 for the purpose of creating a bigger, better band.

When not busy with his duties at Michigan Tech, Arthur returned to Calumet to lead the Calumet and Hecla Band (once one of the premier brass bands in the country), the Works Progress Administration Band (funded by Roosevelt’s New Deal), and the Calumet Orchestra, with local talent as well as his friends from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. From 1931 until 1939, Arthur was a fixture in the Keweenaw music scene, and left the music program in excellent shape for Tech’s next director (and Tri-Beta’s next advisor) B. Franz Schubert.

By 1940, Arthur was again in Evanston, this time teaching students at his independent “Arthur Kitti Music Studio.” Writing a flute lesson book with one of his students and teaching at local high schools, he also found the time to return to Calumet to marry Althea Carlson in 1947. However, he would only teach until 1952, when he returned to Calumet permanently to retire and raise a family. In 1970, he was forced to move to the Houghton County Care Facility, but lived there for 15 years before passing away on September 13, 1985, exactly a month shy of his 92nd birthday. Even today, he’s listed by world-class flutists as one of their teachers, which is a measure of respect for the man that was proudest of his Bachelor’s degree because of all the students he was able to influence over his lifetime.

-Exceprt from the Andy Stephen’s article in the Winter/Spring 2007 Mu Beta Psi “The Clef.”