Professor Edwin A. Stein (1847? 1848? – March 15, 1887) has been described as, “One of the greatest and most talented musicians that Aurora ever produced… who led the musical circles here during the [eighteen] seventies and eighties.”  Stein came to Aurora from Dresden, Germany, and was the son of a director of a conservatory in his homeland.  At first, Professor Stein located in Chicago, but because of poor health, he was advised to seek a smaller, quieter place to live, and, after considering Bloomington, Illinois, moved to Aurora instead.

During his tenure in Aurora, Stein was listed in the City Directories as a music teacher, and tuner of pianos and organs.  Because of his expertise with the organ, he was, at different times, organist and choirmaster at three city churches:  the Universalist Church, the First Methodist Episcopal Church and St. Mary’s Catholic Church.  In addition, Stein established Aurora’s first orchestra which had its earliest roots in the John Plain household.  Five members of the Plain family played musical instruments, and these musicians were the core group of players in an ensemble that would eventually grow to 25 participants.  Among those who were part of this aggregation were Maud Powell, Earl Drake, the Eitelgeorges (Charles, William and Oscar), Dwight Godard, Ed Howell and the Barr Brothers (Silas and Oliver).  John Fauth, tenor singer and former member of the orchestra recalled, “It was a serious thing to belong to Stein’s Orchestra, for it meant study and application under the great leader.”  The orchestra was a popular feature at several community events, and performed at the Coulter Opera House for several of the traveling musical shows of the 1880s.

A more complete listing of all of the members at one particular moment in time indicates that for a May 4, 1881 concert, those in the orchestra were:

1st violin—Maud Powell, May Gillett and Dr. E. B. Howell

2nd violin—Michael Plain, Johnny Plain, Sam Clark and Albert Staudt

viola—C. F. Bussey

violincello—Charles C. Van Liew

bass violin—Jacob Plain

flute—Henry Plain

clarinet—Frank Plain

1st cornet—Silas Barr

2nd cornet—Gilbert Clayton

trombone—George Snyder

drum—Ed Frazier

Special guest vocalist for this performance was local favorite, Fannie Quereau.

A subsequent list of players from 1885 shows:

1st violin—Ed Miller, Wilbur Hattery, John W. Plain and Albert Staudt

2nd violin—Fred Merrill, Charles Clayton and Frank Holden

viola—Oliver Barr

double bass—J. H. Plain

flute—Henry Plain

1st clarinet—Byron Fredenburg

2nd clarinet—Willie Powell

cornets—Silas M. Barr, Albert Henn (Heun?) and M. E. Plain

fagotte (bassoon)—J. M. Miller

trombone—G. W. Schneider and S. Brown

tenor drum—C. H. Wilcox

Stein’s other activities included conducting various choruses in the city.

While working with the Universalist Church, a monthly song service was instituted, and “attracted a large audience…  It seemed as if the entertainment was even better than usual.  The music by Stein’s orchestra never fails to have eager listeners; the Concert Grand March, for two cornets, by Silas Barr and Dr. Glidden and the orchestra, was exceptionally fine.  The male quartette consisting of Fauth, Bussy, Pearce and Sill is a strong one, and was one of the principal features of the entertainment.”

Of a performance accompanying a rendering of “Othello” in 1882, The Aurora Daily Express said Stein’s orchestra “…added very greatly to the enjoyment of both evenings.  The selections were aptly chosen and finely given… Prof. Stein has evidently labored hard to furnish the people with first-class music and his orchestra should be a fixture at the Opera House.”

Early in 1883, Stein left his position with the Universalist Church, and began working at the First Methodist Episcopal Church.  It was noted in January 20, 1883 that “…The new choir at the M E church is furnishing very fine music under the leadership of Prof. E. A. Stein.”  By December 1885, however, Stein had transferred his services to St. Mary’s Catholic Church as organist and choirmaster.

Also in that year, Stein was put in charge of organizing a reception to honor violinist Maud Powell upon her return to Aurora after three years of study in Europe.   Stein’s Orchestra, alongside Mrs. George Carpenter from Chicago, Phoebe Carpenter, Fannie Quereau and elocutionist Gertie Waterhouse, was featured.  After reviewing the performances of the other participants, it was noted that “The other parts of the concert were taken by Stein’s orchestra which won new laurels…”

Other highlights of Stein’s musical career included many civic entertainments such as the Library Gift Concert (to build an extension on the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall), performances for the Woman’s Christian Association, the Ladies’ Social Union, dedication ceremonies for the Oak Street School, the Aurora Hospital Benefit, Memorial Day exercises, and an organ performance at the First Methodist Episcopal Church for the Aurora commemoration of President Garfield following his assassination.  He also assisted with an adaptation of “Ben Hur” that was staged by the People’s Church Young Peoples Society to raise funds for their choir.

Stein married Isabella Shedd June 26, 1882.  They would have one child, also named Edwin, who was born about five months after his father’s death.  Stein died March 15, 1887 of either an enlarged heart or a tumor over his heart.  He was buried in Spring Lake Cemetery, and a Beacon News article from 1937 indicated that there was no stone placed at his gravesite.


Topic:  Edwin A. Stein

Researcher:  Robert Winder, Aurora Public Library


Burton, Charles Pierce. “Now and Then.” The Aurora Daily Beacon News 12 Aug. 1934: n. pag.

Burton, Charles Pierce.  “Now and Then.”  The Aurora Daily Beacon News  25 Jul. 1937: n. pag.

Burton, Charles Pierce.  “Now and Then.”  The Aurora Daily Beacon News  5 Oct. 1941: n. pag.

Burton, Charles Pierce.  “Now and Then.”  The Aurora Daily Beacon News  15 Feb. 1942: n. pag.

Johnson, Justus.  “Now and Then.”  The Aurora Daily Beacon News  26 Mar. 1950: n. pag.

The Aurora Daily Express  25 Sep. 1882: 3.

The Aurora Daily Express  1 Nov. 1882: 3.

The Aurora Daily Express  20 Jan. 1883: 3.

The Aurora Daily Express  19 Dec. 1884: 1.

The Aurora Daily Express  28-Jan. 1884: 1.

The Aurora Daily Express  6 Nov. 1884: 3.

The Aurora Daily Express  10 Jan. 1885: 1

The Aurora Daily Express  10 Apr. 1885: 1.

The Aurora Daily Express  4 May 1885: 3.

The Aurora Daily Express  5 May 1885: 3.

The Aurora Daily Express  12 May 1885: 1.

The Aurora Daily Express  23 Dec. 1885: 1.

The Aurora Daily Express  26 Mar. 1886: 3.

The Aurora Daily Express  15-Mar. 1887: 1.

“Http://” Ancestry. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.