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Bohumil Makovsky

The Guiding Spirit of Kappa Kappa Psi




    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 nearest 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 of both the citizens of Oklahoma and the student body at OAMC.  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 Scottish Rite 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 to 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."

- from kkytbs.org

Quick Facts About Boh

  • Boh was born in Frantisky, Bohemia on September 23, 1878.

  • Boh's first instrument was the "Albert System" clarinet, which his uncle taught him to play.

  • Boh came to the United States at the age of 17 and worked as an apprentice to a cigar maker in Nebraska.

  • Boh received only six years of formal education throughout his life.

  • Boh served as band director and music department head at Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) from 1915 to 1943.

  • Boh was the first honorary member of both Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma.

  • Boh's trademarks were his uncrushed black bowtie and his saxophone-shaped pipe, which he called "my best friend."

  • Some of Boh's close friends were men such as John Philip Sousa, Henry Fillmore and A. A. Harding.

  • Boh liked to call certain rare instruments owned by the university (such as the sarrusophone, hecklephone and contrabass clarinet) his "pets."

  • Boh received an honorary Ph.D. in Music from the University of Tulsa.

  • Boh was a Master Mason and achieved the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite, an honorary degree that is the highest of the Rite and awarded for service to Masonry.

  • Boh was listed in "Who's Who Among American Musicians."

  • Boh was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1938.

  • Boh was made an honorary chief of the Kiowa Indian Tribe.  His Kiowa name became "The Great Father of Oklahoma Music," and he was given a war bonnet by the tribe.

  • Boh passed away June 12, 1950 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.


More information about Bohumil Makovsky can be found in the Guide to Membership and in the biography of Boh written by Alpha Life Members Steve Nelson and Richard Dugger, available from National Headquarters.