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Lancy Scholar Catalogs Vinatieri Archive
Cathi Keldsen Stapf cataloged music written by General Custer's bandmaster, Felix Vinatieri, while she was an undergraduate history major at the University of South Dakota.  Photo by Simon Spicer.
Cathi Keldsen Stapf, a student Curatorial Assistant at National Music Museum for 4 years, was awarded a prestigious Lancy Summer Undergraduate Research stipend through the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in 2000-2001. Her project, "Felix Vinatieri: General Custer's Bandmaster," was one of ten funded at the University of South Dakota (USD), as part of an interdisciplinary program, "Retracing the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Contemporary Aspects of Culture and Environment Along the Missouri River."
The summer stipend enabled Stapf to conduct original research, utilizing the Museum's Vinatieri Archive. Margaret Banks, Curator of Musical Instruments, was her faculty mentor.
Felix Vinatieri (1834-1891), an Italian immigrant cornet player, fought in the Civil War, went West to serve at Ft. Sully on the Missouri River near present-day Pierre, S.D., then settled in Yankton, the first capital of Dakota Territory. In 1873 he joined Custer's Seventh Cavalry as bandmaster, and accompanied Custer's troops, when they explored the Black Hills in 1874. During the infamous Battle of the Little Big Horn, Vinatieri and the members of the Seventh Cavalry Band were ordered by Custer to remain on the steamboat, the Far West, an order that saved their lives. Afterwards, Vinatieri returned to Yankton, where he continued to teach, conduct, and compose.
The Museum's Vinatieri Archive contains the surviving, handwritten music composed or arranged by the bandmaster, as well as photographs and biographical information. Stapf updated and completed the cataloging and preservation of the music, obtained additional photographic documentation of his life and career, and discovered additional biographical information about the band leader.
She presented her findings at IdeaFest (USD's undergraduate research festival) on April 6, 2001, and at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, March 15-17, 2001.
A history major during her undergraduate years at USD, Stapf was involved in numerous archival projects at the Museum. Before that, she worked for six years at the Pickler Mansion Museum in her hometown, Faulkton, SD.
Anyone willing to contribute biographical, genealogical, or pictorial material concerning Vinatieri, the 7th Cavalry Band, and the band's members (see list below), is urged to contact the Museum at the address below.
Members of Vinateri's 7th Cavalry Band included the following: