Forest Park

George Seuffert, Sr. Bandshell

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Born in Brooklyn to Bavarian immigrants, George Seuffert, Sr. (1875-1964) received his only formal music training from the violinist Joseph Zoellner. Seuffert became a music teacher and concert violinist before establishing the Concordia Military Band in 1894, later becoming the Seuffert Band. They performed on a bandstand on this spot until 1920, when the bandshell was built to replace it. Seuffert worked as a bank executive and personally knew John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), the famous Marine Band leader. Sousa had a large influence on Seuffert’s son, George Seuffert, Jr., who took his father’s place as bandleader in 1931. Seuffert retired in 1945 and died in Ridgewood, Queens, on November 9, 1964. The bandshell was named for him by local law in 1979.

George Seuffert, Jr., was born on May 10, 1912, and learned to play the piano when he was four years old. He began providing free concerts in 1928, when he was just 16, and three years later went on to fill his father’s position as bandleader. Seuffert then served in the Marines during World War II, conducting the Third Marine Air Wing Band in the Pacific. He studied music at New York University, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D in education. In 1951, Seuffert was named director of the Fordham University Band. He also served on the advisory board of the Lighthouse Music School, the New York Association for the Blind, and taught music in Bushwick and Grover Cleveland High Schools, serving as the chair of the music department.

In 1966, Mayor John V. Lindsay (1921-2000) appointed Seuffert the City’s music consultant. Seuffert reportedly knew all the world’s national anthems, and was responsible for performing them at diplomatic functions for the city. He is best remembered in this community for the free concerts the Seuffert Band gave every summer at this bandshell. By the time Seuffert died on May 9, 1995 in Narragansett, Rhode Island, the Seuffert Band was one of the last concert bands in the city. After Seuffert’s death, the Queens Symphony Orchestra began performing in the bandshell, continuing the tradition of free concerts.

Set in the lush environs of Forest Park, the bandshell accommodates 3,500 people and was renovated in 1977 with $204,751 in state and federal funds. In January of 1999, the bandshell was closed for an extensive, $3.4 million renovation funded by Borough President Claire Shulman. It reopened on June 11, 2000, with a ceremony attended by Seuffert Jr.’s widow Doris, Borough President Shulman, Commissioner Stern, and Mayor Giuliani. The restoration improved the stage, arch, and comfort station, added lighting, a new sound system, new dressing rooms, made the bandshell wheelchair accessible, restored the terra cotta tiles, installed a movie screen, and new landscaping, and sidewalks along the parking lot. Thanks to these efforts, the Seuffert Bandshell is ready for another century of music and tradition.

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