Updated: Nov 27, 2021
It’s a pitch-black Sunday morning in 1909 and 7-year-old Willie Revelli is standing along the railroad tracks in the tiny Illinois coal town of Panama. In the distance, a train’s whistle sings. Willie snaps on his flashlight, raises his arm, and flags down the massive locomotive.
In his other hand is his precious violin. It is the only instrument he ever wanted, and he wasn’t yet 5 when he began begging his parents for one.
“My dad put it right beside my bed on a stand and when I woke up Christmas morning, there was my violin! The first thing I wanted to do was play; of course all I could do was scratch around. I didn’t know how to hold the bow or anything.”
This is why he waits at the train station in the dark. Wake up every Sunday morning at 4:30, catch the eye of the engineer, hop aboard The Limited, and ride four hours to the big city of St. Louis. There, he meets with the concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for a 45-minute violin lesson, followed by free time and the return trip to Panama. He arrives home after 9 p.m.
He does this every Sunday, every month, for 10 years.
University of Michigan Heritage Project
Click to read the full biography here:
Revelli Family Lot at Oak Grove Cemetery in Hillsboro, Illinois
> John B. Revelli Sr. - Father of William Revelli ~ 1869-1933
> Rosa Revelli - Mother of William Revelli ~ 1879-1973
> Melvin Revelli - Son of John & Rosa
>Norma Revelli - Daughter of John & Rosa
>John B. Revelli Jr. - Son of John & Rosa