Bohumil Makovsky represented a fulfillment of the “American Dream.” Imagine, if you will, a time before the turn of the century and a 17-year-old Bohemian boy arriving in New York from mid-Europe on his way to Nebraska to join his sister’s family – a young man with little formal education, unable to speak English, but able to eloquently communicate through the language of Music with his improved “Albert System” clarinet. Even though his initial role was that of assisting the family in cigar manufacturing, Boh was within a short time leading a small band that criss-crossed the midlands, playing for fairs, dances, shows, and other entertainments.
In 1903 Boh’s band was booked out of Kankakee, Illinois, for an engagement in Davis, Oklahoma Territory. The group arrived by train only to discover that no such engagement existed. Boh paid his men and headed for the closest large town, Oklahoma City. There he played in beer garden bands, gave music lessons, organized and directed “polka” bands in Woodward, Yukon, and Prague, and for ten years furnished band music for Oklahoma State Fairs. In 1915 he was invited by the President of Oklahoma A&M College in Stillwater to become band director. To Boh’s surprise, he learned upon his arrival in Stillwater that he was also to serve as Director of Music, an administrative post.
Boh financed pioneer tours of the state by the A&M College Band, composed music for the band, encouraged all phases of public school music, rode the crest of America’s band wave, and gradually but surely, captured the imagination both of the citizens of Oklahoma and the student body at O.A.M.C. By studying the Masonic ritual and memorizing large sections of it, Boh was able to enlarge his vocabulary and to master the English language, which he spoke with a colorful accent. He became a citizen of the United States, was elevated to the 33rd degree in Masonry, received an Honorary Doctor of Music Degree, and was elected to Oklahoma’s “Hall of Fame” and to “Who’s Who in Music” in the United States.
Even though Dr. Makovsky accomplished much in his 72 years, he was unfailingly humble and always expressed great appreciation for how much others had done for him. The pipe he smoked, bent into a miniature saxophone shape, and the uncrushed black bow tie which he always wore, became his trademarks.
Boh was stern on the podium and uncompromising in musical detail and interpretation at each of the Monday through Friday 7 a.m. rehearsal hours, yet he was a sincere friend to all. Many were deeply influenced by their contacts with Boh, and his students perpetuate his teachings and ideals this day.
One can thus readily understand that Bohumil Makovsky was a fulfillment of the “American Dream,” and by his constant encouragement and support of the Fraternity, was truly, “The Guiding Spirit of Kappa Kappa Psi.”