December 31, 1903: Olga Lawitzky and Gustav Flaaten make beautiful music together

On this day in Duluth in 1903, Olga Lawitzky married Gustav Flaaten; it was a marriage made in musical heaven. Lawitzky was an “accomplished pianist and singer” in Duluth, and Flaaten’s entire family became well-known Duluth musicians (his older brother Jens was the director of Duluth’s Third Regiment Band; Alphin, Alyda Francis, Esther Mae, and Roy Flaaten were also noted Duluth musicians). Here is Gustav’s brief 1909 biography by historian John Pardee: “Gustav Flaaten, director of Flaaten’s conservatory of music at Duluth, Minn., is a native of Norway and was born at Christians in 1876, the son of Halvor and Olefine Flaaten. He comes of a family of educated musicians and was brought to this country at the age of twelve years. He acquired his early musical training under the guidance and training of his elder brother, Jens H. Flaaten, but at the age of twenty-three, in 1899, went abroad and spent three and a half years in study under the direction of the noted Richard Hagemeister, of the Royal Orchestra of Berlin, and of the celebrated violinist and composer, Gustav Fr. Lange, who placed so high an estimate upon his musical talent that he dedicated to him several choice compositions. Mr. Flaaten is a versatile composer and has written compositions for the orchestra and violin, as well as vocal compositions, which have been successfully produced.” Flaaten wanted to establish a symphony orchestra in Duluth, and made several efforts. The Duluth Civic Orchestra, predecessor to today’s Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, was finally established in 1931—in the carriage house of Alphin Flaaten.

Gustav Flaaten’s orchestra photographed in 1908. The people with the stars over their heads are Olga and Gustav Flaaten. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)

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