Edgar Felten was a beloved music teacher at Denfeld,
and the man who wrote the school’s alma mater.
He was born in Sheboygan, Wis. At age 14, while
attending Concordia Academy High School, he earned a scholarship
to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, where he gained a reputation
as a piano player. He graduated from Concordia Academy when World
War I was underway. He went to Lake Forest College, a student army
training school, to prepare for officer’s school or the infantry,
but the war ended and he returned to Sheboygan to work at Kohler
plumbing and later Falls Motors as a mechanic.
Felten joined a four-piece orchestra and played
dance music as the swing era was blossoming. He put his sister through
college with his earnings and she suggested he go back to college.
He attended Milwaukee State Teacher’s College and received
a degree in vocal music because to be a teacher one had to be versed
in instrumental and vocal music. He could play piano, clarinet,
cello, violin and trumpet.
He met and married Myrtle Thompson and accepted
an offer to teach in Duluth at Lincoln Junior High School. He stayed
there from 1930 until 1941, when Denfeld’s music instructor
George Parrish retired. He was teaching at Lincoln on Friday and
Denfeld on Tuesday, which he said was one of the “happiest
days of my life.”
He directed Denfeld’s a-cappella choir,
musicals, the orchestra and often the band. His choirs were known
for their precision and close harmonies. He was given the nickname
“father” because he taught a group of girls in a cappella,
orchestra and girl’s ensemble, and they claimed they saw him
more than their own fathers and began calling him “Father
Felten.” To make ends meet he scrubbed floors at the Board
of Education and worked as a night watchman for the Duluth, Missabe
& Iron Range Railway in the summers. He was also organist and
choir director at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church.
He noted that Denfeld didn’t have a proper
“alma mater” so he borrowed the tune from the popular
radio program “Halls of Ivy” and wrote appropriate lyrics,
which are still sung today as “Halls of Denfeld.”
His wife died of a chronic illness in 1967, shortly
after his retirement. They had two sons, James Edgar, a Cornell
Ph.D. who worked as an astrophysicist for NASA,
and John Charles, who received a masters-of-education degree from
Kent State and taught and coached at a Lutheran high school in Ohio.
of Fame Members