July 23, 2015

Bohumil Makovsky: Masonic Bandsman

By T.S. Akers

 Bohumil Makovsky

Freemason’s are directed to study the Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Fellowcraft degree.  Masonic teachings tell us that those include grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.  In Oklahoma, one Brother was particularly adept at music.  Born in Frantisky Bohemia, on September 23, 1878, Bohumil “Boh” Makovsky arrived in the United States at age seventeen.[i]  He made his way to Nebraska to join his Sister’s family where he took an apprenticeship with a cigar maker.  Unable to speak English, Makovsky was skilled with his Albert System Clarinet.[ii]  It was Makovsky’s Uncle who taught him to play the clarinet, as Makovsky had little formal education.[iii]

An accomplished musician, Makovsky soon began leading a band in Nebraska.  It was in 1903 that his band was booked to play in Davis, Oklahoma Territory.  Upon arrival, the band learned there was no gig, so Makovsky paid the band members and made his way to Oklahoma City.  There he gave music lessons and played the State Fair on a regular basis.  Oklahoma also happened to be home to an Eastern European community, which allowed for Makovsky to lead polka bands in Woodward, Yukon, and Prague.[iv]

Makovsky settled in Woodward in time and there found himself knocking on the doors of Freemasonry.  On May 21, 1908, he was initiated an Entered Apprentice in Woodward Lodge No. 189 AF&AM.  Makovsky would then be passed to the degree of Fellowcraft on July 2 and raised to the degree of Master Mason on August 6.[v]  During the Reunion of October 6-8, 1908, at Guthrie, he took the degrees of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.[vi]  It was by becoming a Masonic ritualist and committing large portions of degree work to memory that Makovsky was able to master the English language.[vii]

In 1915, Makovsky was asked to become the Band Director at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University).  With that title, he also became the Director of Music.[viii]  Makovsky then made his home in Stillwater, affiliating with Frontier Lodge No. 48 AF&AM in 1918; he would serve as Worshipful Master in 1922.[ix]  Makovsky would serve at Oklahoma A&M until 1943.[x]  A bit eccentric, one colleague described Makovsky as the most unforgettable character he had ever known.  For example, Makovsky liked to refer to rare instruments owned by the school as “his pets.”[xi]

Makovsky in his Oklahoma A&M band uniform, c. 1923

An active Scottish Rite Mason, Makovsky long served as Organist at the Guthrie Temple.  He was elected a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor in 1921 and coroneted a 33rd Degree in 1927.[xii]  Makovsky was also a York Rite Mason and served as Commander of St. John’s Commandery No. 8, Knights Templar, stationed at Stillwater, in 1928.  He additionally served as High Priest of Stillwater Chapter No. 14, Royal Arch Masons in 1921.  Makovsky was the first Illustrious Master of Stillwater Council No. 50, Royal and Select Masters in 1949.

 Makovsky's Knight Templar Sword
(From the collections of the McAlester Scottish Rite Temple)

Makovsky earned numerous honors throughout his lifetime.  He received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Tulsa and was the first honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi, a music fraternity.  Kappa Kappa Psi would come to call Makovsky their “Guiding Spirit.”  He was also bestowed the title of “The Great Father of Oklahoma Music” by the Kiowa Tribe.[xiii]  Makovsky would be inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1938.[xiv]  His trademark crushed velvet bowtie and saxophone shaped pipe were long remembered in Stillwater[xv].  Makovsky died on June 12, 1950, and was laid to rest in Fairlawn Cemetery of Cushing, Oklahoma.[xvi]

[i]  “Facts About Boh,” Kappa Kappa Psi Alpha Chapter, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.okstate.edu/osu_orgs/kkp/Boh.html.
[ii]  “Bohumil Makovsky,” Kappa Kappa Psi Alpha Chapter, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.orgs.okstate.edu/kkp/boh.html.
[iii]  “Facts About Boh.”
[iv]  “Bohumil Makovsky.”
[v]  “Makovsky, Bohumil” (member profile, Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma AF&AM).
[vi]  “Makovsky, Bohumil” (member profile, Guthrie Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
[vii]  “Bohumil Makovsky.”
[viii]  Ibid.
[ix]  “Makovsky, Bohumil” (member profile, Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma AF&AM).
[x] “Facts About Boh.”
[xi]  Ibid.
[xii]  “Makovsky, Bohumil” (member profile, Guthrie Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
[xiii]  “Facts About Boh.”
[xiv]  “Inductees,” Oklahoma Hall of Fame, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.oklahomahof.com/Inductees/SearchbyDate.aspx.
[xv]  “Facts About Boh.”
[xvi]  “Bohumil Makovsky,” Find A Grave, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7210498.

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