December 29, 1860 – September 12, 1945
Carlo A. Sperati is accredited with creating the legend of the Luther College Concert Band. After growing up in Norway and spending seven years working on ships at sea, Sperati came to Luther College in 1884 to prepare for seminary. Immediately, Sperati began organizing and directing choral and instrumental music groups at the college and in the local community of Decorah, Iowa. Sperati graduated from Luther in 1888 and spent time serving in churches in Washington before returning to Luther as the director of music in 1905.
Sperati’s musical vitality quickly began to set the stage for the incredible talent and traditions that would come from the Luther College Music Department. In 1907, he directed the first Decorah community performance of Handel’s Messiah, which would later become one of Luther’s most famous annual traditions. Sperati conducted the choir, orchestra, and, most famously, the band. By 1911, over one-third of the Luther College student body played in one of the three bands developed by Sperati.
Under Sperati’s direction, the Luther College Concert band soon became a well-traveled touring ensemble. The band quickly earned national recognition as it frequently toured the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest in 1906 and again in 1911. In 1914, Sperati lead the band on its first international tour to Norway at the invitation of the Norwegian government. The tour lasted over 4 months and included 73 concerts. Later, as part of the 1936 “Diamond Jubilee” 75th anniversary of Luther College, Sperati again lead the band on its second international tour, performing throughout Norway as well as Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Cologne, Paris, and London.
The energy and high standards that Sperati created in the music department of Luther College continue to shine. Sperati conducted the Luther College Concert Band for thirty-eight years until his retirement in 1943. Numerous students who were inspired by Sperati during their time at Luther continued on to become gifted musical directors and teachers. Today, Luther honors one outstanding music educator each year with the Carlo A. Sperati award, first presented to Weston Noble in 1961.