Carlo A. Sperati

Music department director and faculty member (1905-1943)

Early Years

Carlo Alberto Sperati (Carlo A.) was born to Italian musician Paolo Agostino Sperati and Marie (Nielsen) Sperati on December 29, 1860; he was their eighth child. His mother died when he was five and his father then married Mathilde Bendixsen. Sperati started taking music lessons and performing at an early age. When Sperati was seventeen, his father consented to let him go to sea, which was something Sperati had been yearning to do since he was a young boy. After a few years at sea, Sperati came to Luther College to study Theology in the summer of 1884. He found out about Luther through the Seaman’s Mission in Brooklyn, New York. Luther's first president, Laur Larsen, had established the mission in 1860.

Years at Luther

While at Luther, Sperati was a member of the Orchestra and the Concert Band. In addition, he formed a singing group called Lorelei. During his second year, Sperati joined the faculty part-time as a singing instructor. Sperati is best known for his development of the Luther College Concert Band. He was a Luther student from 1884 to 1888. While a Luther student, he organized the Turning Club in 1886. In 1887 Sperati became engaged to Emma Hoffoss, who lived in Decorah, when he was twenty-six and she was sixteen. The following year Sperati graduated from Luther and Emma Hoffoss graduated from high school. After his graduation from Luther, he attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Sperati and Emma Hoffoss were married on August 25, 1891 at First Lutheran Church in Decorah, Iowa. Directly after the wedding they traveled to Whatcom County, Washington where Sperati served as pastor to the local Lutheran congregation. In the fall of 1894, Sperati and his wife both became faculty members at Pacific Lutheran University. Sperati taught music and voice and Mrs. Sperati taught at the Primary School. During this time Sperati also served as a Pastor in Tacoma, Washington. In 1905, Sperati became the musical director at Luther College, where he remained until he retired in 1943. While a member of the Luther faculty, he also taught religion classes, but was most well-known for his music activities. He led the Concert Band on extended European tours, and helping it win international acclaim. He also directed performances of Handel’s Messiah. Sperati was known for his strict discipline, demand for perfection, and patience when working with music students. The Speratis had a total of eight children. Sperati retired from directing the Luther College Concert Band after thirty-eight years in 1943. Sperati died on September 12, 1945 at home in Decorah at age eighty-four. Mrs. Sperati continued living at 501 High Street until her failing health made it necessary for her to move to a nursing home, where she died on February 5, 1952.

Other Information

The Sperati family papers consist of 6 series: Series I, Correspondence; Series II, As Faculty at Luther College; Series III, Awards, Honors and Memorials; Series IV, Scrapbooks; Series V, Emma Hoffoss Sperati; and Series VI, Realia.

The first series in the Sperati family papers, Correspondence, comprises the majority of the collection. The series is arranged starting with the correspondence between Carlo A. Sperati and his wife Emma Hoffoss Sperati. First in the series is correspondence to Emma Hoffoss Sperati from Carlo A. Sperati from 1887-1891. Next in the series is correspondence from Emma Hoffoss Sperati to Carlo A. Sperati from 1888-1891. Finishing out the series is correspondence to Carlo A. Sperati from friends and family dating from 1882-1939.

Resources in the Luther College Archives

  • Carlo A. Sperati and family -- collected materials
  • Carlo A. Sperati: The Grand Old Maestro by Camilla Sperati Strom
  • Luther College 1861-1961 by David T. Nelson
  • Stability and Change: Luther College in Its Second Century by Leigh D. Jordahl and Harris E. Kaasa

Works Referenced

  • Jordahl, Leigh D. and Harris E. Kaasa, Stability and Change: Luther College in Its Second Century, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1986.
  • Nelson, David T., Luther College 1861-1961, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1961.
  • Papers of Carlo A. Sperati and family
  • Strom, Camilla Sperati, Carlo A. Sperati: The Grand Old Maestro, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1988.
  • Who's Who in the Luther College Archives

External Resources