Harmonica on Homestead Starts Career in Music
Transcription of newspaper article from the column "Wichita Silhouettes", c. 1965
"A name like mine makes it easy for folks to get on a first-name basis," laughed Joe Pizinger, Wichita violinist since 1918.
He tells with pride how his parents, who were from Bohemia, came to Kansas in 1876 from Chicago and homesteaded in Barton County, 24 miles west of Great Bend, where he was born. There were five brothers and two sisters in the family and his father drove oxen to Great Bend, nearest railroad point, for supplies.
Establishment of the town of Olmitz, five miles from his parents' farm, was a real event.
Pizinger's love for music began at age eight, when he learned to play a harmonica. When he was 10 years old he played a harmonica for a square dance and earned a nickel.
By the time he was 13 he had learned to play three square dance tunes on a borrowed violin. He was hired to play for a square dance and earned $3.50 for an evening's work. With that sum he ordered a violin from New York City and received a fairly good fiddle.
When he heard new tunes, he managed to learn them and kept on playing. He received his first lesson at Cripple Creek, Colorado. He later studied with Theo Lindsborg at Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas. He studied later with Karl Weiland, Kansas City, and with Dan Banta, who now resides in New York City.
In addition to his teaching and theater playing, Pizinger took up the hobby of collecting and repairing violins, which he has followed for 50 years. He opened a downtown shop in 1945 at 130 ½ N. Main. He moved it to his present location at 902 E. Douglas in February 1959.
He married Anna Suichy at Olmitz and they resided in that community for five years before moving to Great Bend, Kansas, in 1912. He took a job of playing in a picture show and teaching violin. With different partners he later operated picture shows at Hoisington, Kansas and Great Bend.
The Pizingers had a family of five children, all of whom were talented and active musicians. Mrs. Pizinger died March 26, 1961.
When he came to Wichita he played violin with an orchestra in Hartman's Dance Hall and Dancing School which was located over the old Princess Theater.
Pizinger started his own orchestra, which included his two daughters and son, Arthur, who later played with several national name bands. He died six years ago as a result of injuries received in an automobile accident.
The Pizinger family orchestra filled radio and many other kinds of musical engagements. He also taught violin in schools and had a large private class. He now limits himself to eight pupils so that he will have more time for his violin shop where he works on many rare violins.
He comments on the great number of fine people whom he has met through music. His friends and family keep trying to get him to retire and he would like to please them but he states frankly, "I don't see how I am going to do it."
The musician who farmed until he was 30 years old, and played ball and boxed and high jumped appears to be in condition and keeps a fast pace with men 20 years his junior.
He has a rich fund of stories about the days when there was no music teacher within 100 miles and would-be musicians rode a horse or a mule to lessons and saw rattlesnakes, prairie chickens and prairie dogs en route. With the opportunities which people in Wichita now have for musical training he thinks that nearly every child could become a musician.
One of his hobbies is collecting coins and he has some 38 books.
His family consists of a sister, Mrs. Anna Milberger, San Diego, California; and four daughters, Mrs. Lillian Harlan, 1612 E. Orne, Mrs. William P. Warren, 3516 Hiram, Mrs. Emerson Smith, Houston, Texas, and Mrs. L.L. Sorrells, Kansas City; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
My Sweet Dream Waltz
F.L.T. March and Two-Step
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Ed. Note: I started piano lessons with Mr. Pizinger's daughter in 1957, and Mr. Pizinger was my private violin teacher for six years during the period 1958-1964, at which time my family moved from Wichita to Tulsa. To him I owe a through grounding in classical etude literature; starting with Laoureux, Wohlfahrt, Kayser, Mazas, etc. We frequently had three-hour lessons on Saturday morning, for which he charged my mother I believe it was $3.00.
My love and appreciation for him is pretty much boundless, though as a child I of course took it for granted and had no idea what advantages I was enjoying. Only when I became an adult teacher and musician did I begin to understand.
Any family member of Mr. Pizinger who would like to get in touch with me, please do so at my email.