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Alcott Beardsley, Teacher and Musician

August 14th, 2020

By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits

A member recently brought in a handwritten music composition entitled, “Geneva in New York State,” by Alcott Beardsley. It was undated and she didn’t have much information about Mr. Beardsley, but she remembered he had been active in the community. I spent a little time looking for the man, not knowing if I would find anything about him.

My search was limited to the website fultonhistory.com but I found more about Mr. Beardsley than I expected. Born in 1906 and died in 1995, his family was related to Louisa May Alcott, hence his first name. The Connecticut native graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, then pursued speech therapy in graduate school.

Woman And Man Seated In Evening Clothes 1960

Mary Ellen and Alcott Beardsley, 1960

After World War II, Mr. Beardsley came to Geneva on the recommendation of a friend. He was interested in Lochland School, a small school working with children with developmental disabilities. He accepted a temporary job, then stayed there for 34 years. He began as a speech therapist, but also taught music and academic subjects. His wife, Mary Ellen, worked at Lochland as a crafts instructor.

As the music donor thought, Mr. Beardsley was very active in Geneva. He was on the board of directors of the YMCA, and the Ontario County Association for Retarded Children (ARC) in its early years. He worked on Community Chest fund drives, and was Sunday School superintendent at the First Presbyterian Church. He was named Kiwanian of the Decade in 1977, and Geneva Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year for 1980.

Two Older Men In Coats Ringing Bells For Salvation Army

Alcott Beardsley, right, and Vincent Scalise

My real interest, his music, was mentioned in articles but with few details. A 1980 Finger Lakes Times article stated, “He has composed several works sung by the choir at First Presbyterian Church.” The next year, the paper wrote that he “has composed musical scores for local high school plays and other area musical groups.”

The piece we received is a civic anthem about Geneva’s virtues. The only line to place this in time is, “Good stores and factories to work in.” Mr. Beardsley may not have written that about factories by the late 1960s, although he seemed like an optimistic gentleman. Here are the full lyrics to “Geneva in New York State” by Alcott W. Beardsley –

Geneva in New York State, It’s a great place to live.

Geneva in New York State, It has a lot to give.

With Seneca Lake on the East side

And rolling hills to the West,

With valleys, streams, and forests,

There’s nothing but the best.

 

With good schools and Colleges, Hobart and William Smith

For farmers a Station to help them grow the best.

Good stores and factories to work in

And lots of places to shop,

There’s fishing in Seneca Lake,

Swimming and a picnic stop.

 

O we live in Geneva, where there is plenty to do,

Recreation for ev’ry age, for teams and singles too.

Geneva is a friendly place

with lots of people to know

In Churches, Clubs, and Lodges,

A list of friends will grow.

 

Geneva in New York State, It’s a great place to live.

Geneva in New York State, It has a lot to give.

We like it in the morning,

We like it noon and night,

We’re glad to live in Geneva,

We find the place just right!

 

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3 responses to “Alcott Beardsley, Teacher and Musician”

  1. Joanne Wisor says:

    Anne, a great piece of research. I remember him. How fortunate that the person found the music and brought it to the Historical Society. I hope it reminds more people, as we stay home and are faced with empty hours, to go through boxes and drawers and bring history to you,

  2. Charles Bauder says:

    John,
    A great bit of research. I like the song. If we ever get back to normal, we should get Steve Venuti to play it at one of the Lakefront concerts.
    Rocky La Rocca wife is the Beardsley’s daughter.

  3. Dan Chacchia says:

    I too was a member of the Kiwanis Club at the same time and then after Al’s death. We had a lot of fun at our Tuesday noon meetings, and at the time, I suppose you could have called us the singing civic club. Meetings usually started off with God Bless America, but Al brought us his composition and had us try it out for him. Some of us had a little music background and Al was always the director. Great fun, I miss those meetings and Al.

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