This is a finding aid (or, description) of materials available in the La Crosse Public Library Archives. At this time, none of the materials listed below are accessible over the internet.
Contact the Archives to learn more about using these materials.
Guide to the Great River Festival of Arts Records, 1960-1986
Table of Contents
- The Great River Festival of Arts, held in La Crosse, Wisconsin, was begun in 1960 under the leadership of Francesco “Frank” Italiano. What began as an interest in establishing a youth symphony and a short summer season for his Coulee Region Symphony, turned into a full-fledged summer festival of the arts, not only in La Crosse, but extending also to Dodgeville and later to Shell Lake and Superior, Wisconsin. The organizations that are described in this collection as part of the festival groups are the Coulee Region Symphony, the Symphony School of America, the Symphony of the Hills at Dodgeville and the Indianhead Symphony at Shell Lake. The festival’s names have changed through time. Initially it was called the Coulee Region Music Festival in 1960 and became the Coulee Region Arts Festival in 1961, then the Coulee Region Festival of Arts in 1963, and finally the Great River Festival of Arts in 1976. This festival continues to this day (2002). The Coulee Region Summer Symphony in 1960 became the Coulee Region Symphony in 1961 and then the Great River Symphony in 1972. Records, organized by concert season, include materials from the musical life of the festival (1960-1986) when it was under the direction of Frank Italiano. The festival programs; advertising posters; newspaper clippings; photographs that were in the newspaper; application information and forms for the Symphony School; lists of members of the symphony, board, and symphony school faculty; board reports; and a scrapbook created by Lenore Italiano, administrator of the festival, that gives an idea of the administrative components of the Coulee Region Symphony.
- Collection Title
- Great River Festival of Arts Records
- Date of Materials
- Great River Festival of Arts.
- Call Number
- MSS 067
- 0.8 cubic feet
- Physical Description
- 2 archives boxes
- Language of Materials
- La Crosse Public Library Archives
[Identification of item], Great River Festival of Arts Records, MSS 067, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI
The Coulee Region Music Festival was founded in 1960 by a board that included Francesco “Frank” Italiano, the conductor of the Coulee Region Symphony Orchestra. It was his dream to establish both a summer symphony program and a youth symphony. He saw it eventually connecting to the “Wisconsin Idea” of extending quality music experiences to areas that otherwise would not have such music available to them.
Apparently there was an immediate interest to broaden the effort to include other arts, so the following year, 1961, the festival was renamed as the Coulee Region Arts Festival. There was an art exhibition, a film program, a youth symphony, a youth symphony school (the Symphony School of America) and a music clinic. The Coulee Region Symphony was the centerpiece and offered a week of concerts in late July.
Italiano began the Symphony School of America in 1961 at first by providing symphony workshops for students. It expanded annually, so that by 1964 it included approximately 58 students, a private concert, a master piano class and professional voice coaching. High school and college students and adult musicians learned together. The group was housed in the dormitories at UW-La Crosse and gave six concerts and up to five recitals. The participants were also able to earn up to three college credits in orchestra performance, applied instrumental performance and ensemble performance.
In 1966 an expansion of the Symphony School led to a residency for two weeks at Dodgeville for the students and their faculty of professional musicians. During this time they became The Symphony of the Hills and performed at Governor Dodge State Park. They then moved for a second residency of three weeks in La Crosse, where the musicians performed as the Coulee Region Symphony. In both settings, the students and their instructors performed side-by-side. Each year there was a residency of a musician from a major orchestra to enrich students and faculty alike.
Small subgroups of the SSA were formed: a German band, a jazz combo and a chamber music group of faculty. In 1979, for instance, the chamber music group performed in Ashland & Superior, Wisconsin, and Winona, Minnesota.
In 1972, there were three locations for residencies and concerts: Two weeks at Dodgeville as The Symphony of the Hills, one week at Shell Lake as the Indianhead Symphony and then two weeks at La Crosse at which time this symphony was renamed “The Great River Symphony.” By 1975 there was sufficient support to establish a youth symphony just in La Crosse.
Parallel to the growth of the musical efforts was a renaming of the entire festival to become the Coulee Region Arts Festival and then the Coulee Region Festival of Arts, the last name becoming the one that was used until 1976 when it became the Great River Festival of Arts.
In 1984, after a disagreement between the symphony board and the festival board, the Symphony School was moved and thus headquartered for the summer program at Superior and Dodgeville. Nevertheless, the concerts continued in La Crosse, and this same year the community celebrated the 24th year of the summer festival.
Scope and Contents
Records of the Great River Festival of Arts from 1960-1986 were compiled by Frank and Lenore Italiano. Organized by concert season, they include materials from the musical life of the festival when it was under Frank’s direction. There are festival programs; advertising posters; newspaper clippings; photographs that were in the newspaper; application information and forms for the Symphony School; member lists of the symphony, board, and symphony school faculty; board reports; and a scrapbook created by Lenore Italiano, administrator of the festival, that gives an idea of the administrative components of the Coulee Region Symphony.
The collection can be used to learn about the scope of the music played during those years, the visiting artists that came as mentors for the students in the Symphony School, information about the concerts given by the symphony in other communities, members of the symphony and community leaders who supported the efforts over the years. There is not much representative material in this collection from the other aspects of the Great River Festival of Arts other than the musical endeavors.
La Crosse Public Library Archives 2002800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
Access to Materials
Materials in this collection are available for patron use.
(Accession no. 1999.030) Donated by Frank and Lenore Italiano, Oct. 1999.
Processed by Marilyn Bendiksen, 2002.
Controlled Access Headings
- Coulee Region Arts Festival.
- Coulee Region Festival of Arts.
- Coulee Region Music Festival.
- Coulee Region Summer Symphony.
- Coulee Region Symphony.
- Great River Festival of Arts.
- Indianhead Symphony.
- Symphony of the Hills.
- Music--Instruction and study--Wisconsin--La Crosse
- Musicians--Wisconsin--La Crosse
- Symphony orchestras--Wisconsin--La Crosse
Season concert files, 1960-1985
Final reports, 1986
Coulee Region Symphony scrapbook