Wlliam Evans

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Early Pittsburgh's Foremost Music Teacher and Music Promoter

Williams Evans, born in Sussex England, came over the Allegheny Mountains from Philadelphia in 1810 to quickly become early Pittsburgh’s foremost music teacher and music leader.  Back in the U.K. he had performed as a singer in productions of Handel’s music.  In Pittsburgh he operated a plane shop as his profession, but music was his passion.  He opened a music school on 1st and Wood Streets in 1812 giving training to 75 students in singing and all instruments.  For over fifty years he traveled around Western Pennsylvania establishing singing societies, teaching music, leading church choirs, and playing organ in churches.  He founded the Pittsburgh Musical Society in 1818.  The society made up of his students gave the first scared concert in Pittsburgh on July 4, 1818 performing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in Dr. Herron’s church.  The society performed for 18 years.  Evans established a similar musical society across the river in the town of Allegheny.  In 1820 he formed a sixteen member professional military band, called the Union Band,  Over his fifty year career Evan was responsible for most of the music in Pittsburgh and Allegheny City.  Some historians credit Evans for planting the seeds that led to the formation of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Evans chronicled early Western Pennsylvania musical events covering the first half of the nineteenth century in four scrapbooks.  He documented concerts with collections of programs and news paper articles.   He also amassed a collection of music scores, histories, theory books and biographies.  His music library and historical scrapbooks are now held by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  Evans died in a cholera epidemic at age 71 in 1854.     

A.F Marthaens in his eulogy for Evan wrote: "Mr. Evans was a pioneer of sacred music in this place and his memory deserves to be held in honorable remembrance..."

Allegheny City 1818