Horsfall History

Frank Horsfall (1883-1968) with StudentsFrank Horsfall with Students

Frank H. Horsfall was a prominent Pacific Northwest musician who directly or indirectly influenced a great many flutists locally and nationally. He was in the Seattle Symphony for 46 continuous seasons (35 of those as Principal), a member of the University of Washington faculty for 20 years, and a friend and colleague of many renowned artists. He was a sought-after obbligatist for stars such as Lily Pons, Lauritz Melchior, Patrice Munzel and Martha Graham. He also enjoyed playing in the Western Washington Fair Band every September for 25 years and marching with the Nile Temple Band at conventions and parades whenever his busy schedule would allow it. He had many offers to join major eastern symphonies, but chose to stay with the students and musical associations in his beloved Northwest. His greatest pleasure was in teaching. He taught for nearly 60 years and many of his students gained prominence of their own in famous orchestras across the country.

Frank was born in Tacoma of English parents who had emigrated from Yorkshire in 1867. When Washington became a state in 1889 his father was a Tacoma Councilman. After the 8th grade, Frank left school and entered into a four-year apprenticeship to become a machinist. On the side, he learned to play a fife, talked his way into a fife-and-drum corps, bought a $2 piccolo and a $10 flute and began his musical career. He set aside one third of his wages for lessons and would search out any appropriate music professional who came within reach, for good teachers were hard to find. He also took several off-hours business courses in order to manage his future financial affairs. All his life, he looked for ways to learn, improve and expand his knowledge.

In 1901 he became a journeyman machinist and worked at that trade with music as an avocation. At age 22, having also learned to play the saxophone, he put aside machinist tools to play flute and sax in local dance orchestras. The big break came in 1909 - an invitation to be a member of the original Seattle Symphony Orchestra. To augment his symphony income he taught a few lessons and played in park bands, dance bands and pit orchestras for vaudeville, ballets and musical comedies. He and two other flutists even formed an act, "The Three Magic Flutes", and toured for a short time on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. During World War I he was a machinist at the shipyard by day and a musician by night, but when the war ended he again devoted his full attention to music.

Lulu C. Smith (1889-1983) was born in Minneapolis of Norwegian and German parents who moved to Tacoma when she was a toddler. She became an expert pianist and Frank's favorite dancing partner. They were married in 1913 and she shared his life for 55 years thereafter, creating a loving home for their two sons and a supportive atmosphere for her musician husband. She was continuously active in school and university organizations and in music circles. Lu was a talented artist, seamstress and cook. The students who sat in her warm kitchen waiting for their lessons appreciated her cheery ways.

Frank's long career encompassed many activities and interests. He was a business manager, real estate entrepreneur, artistic photographer and lifelong adventurer. In 1920 he and Lu went up the inside coast of British Columbia in a small outboard boat, camping on the wild beaches each night. He climbed Mt. Rainier in 1925, starting from the Longmire's residence, where Lu helped attend to those waiting for the return of the hiking party. One summer he and three other musicians hiked 300 miles through Glacier National Park. Each evening they would haul out their instruments to entertain fellow campers. When over 80 years old, he photographed Kauai's Waimea Canyon leaning out of an open helicopter.

An outgoing man, with effervescence and enthusiasm, he was never one to hold back if the opportunity came along to make new friends. After a concert by the touring London Philharmonic Orchestra, for example, he went backstage to meet the flute section. That evening, after taking them on a tour of Seattle, they all ended up in his basement studio playing music from his library and enjoying Lu's gracious hospitality.

In the mid-30's, he joined with the principal clarinet and oboe players of the symphony, both teachers interested in youth, to form the Seattle Symphony Woodwind Trio. They are still remembered for the humorous and educational music-appreciation programs they put on at countless school assemblies.

Certainly he was proud of what he was able to achieve in his lifetime, but he took the most pride in the accomplishments of his students. As their lives progressed, he would follow their advancements with the interest of a parent. Julius Baker, during one visit to the Seattle Flute Society, mentioned his long acquaintance with Frank and commented, "Bill Kincaid and I envied Frank's natural rapport and easy way with young people -- he loved his students and they loved him."

His last private lesson was given just three months before his death in March 1968, at the age of 84. Lu, blessed with good health and a bright-side philosophy, continued to lead an active life until her death in November 1983, at 94.

The Seattle Flute Society's Frank and Lu Horsfall Competition helps perpetuate their memory and the influence they had on the musical history of the Pacific Northwest.

--By John Horsfall