Arthur Schmersal, former music director of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, dies

Arthur H. Schmersal, a retired Baltimore County high school music teacher who had served as music director of the old Baltimore Colts Marching Band, died of cancer Oct. 12 at the Bob Hooper Hospice House. He was 82 and lived in the Phoenix area of Baltimore County.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville, he was the son of Henry A. Schmersal, a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad engineer, and his wife, Catherine Wildberger, who ran a confectionery store.


He graduated from Towson High School in 1953, then obtained both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

While a student at Peabody, he met Charlotte Fowble, and they later married.


They both became music teachers in Baltimore County public schools. For many years Mr. Schmersal taught at then-Loch Raven Junior High School and Pikesville High School. He later worked at Milford Mill High School and retired in the early 1990s.

“My father kept up with some of his students for years. He loved his time at Pikesville,” said his son, Jeffrey S. Schmersal of Greenville, S.C.

In 1951, while Mr. Schmersal was a student at Towson High, he became a volunteer with the Baltimore Colts Marching Band and was assigned the sousaphone — sometimes referred to as the “marching tuba.” He performed with the group and traveled with the squad to Washington Redskins games and one other away game a year.

“Neither of his parents were musical and yet he could play just about every instrument,” said Jeffrey Schmersal.

In 1965 Mr. Schmersal was named the band’s musical director. He selected the music, created its drills and auditioned new members.

Mr. Schmersal led the band’s rendition of “The Star Spangled-Banner” and halftime show performances. He also conducted music training lessons. The Baltimore Colts Marching Band continued to perform even after the Colts moved to Indianapolis, and were still performing when the Baltimore Ravens came into existence in 1996.

“Following the departure of the Colts in 1984, [he] helped keep the band alive, maintaining the spirit of Baltimore and helping attract another NFL team,” his son said.


Mr. Schmersal was featured in articles in The Baltimore Sun regarding the band. Columnist John Steadman quoted him in 1986 after the unit played at the Meadowlands before a New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game.

“The reaction has been beyond our fondest expectation.” Mr. Schmersal said.

He retired in 1991.

His son said his father enjoyed another enduring interest: model trains.

“His father was a railroad engineer and didn’t drive a car. The family traveled by train and streetcar and my father was immersed in railroad culture. He never lost it,” said his son.

Mr. Schmersal took his sons to the B&O Railroad Museum and the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, as well as to model train exhibitions at The Shops at Kenilworth in Towson.


He did so much business with the M.B. Klein model train firm that its owners allowed his sons to pursue their interest in airplane models in the Gay Street business’s upstairs stockroom — an area normally closed to the public.

He also rented tables and sold collectible Lionel electric trains at meetings of the Train Collectors Association in York, Pa., and at meets at the Maryland State Fairgrounds at Timonium.

The Morning Sun

The Morning Sun


Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the

“He bought as much as he sold, unfortunately,” his son said.

Mr. Schmersal filled his basement with an elaborate mounted model train display. He presided over family gatherings and liked to host crab feasts.

“Seafood was a part of every social gathering he staged,” his son said.

He recalled his father as joyful, enthusiastic and energetic.


“He was also a great gardener of flowers and vegetables,” his son said. “He put in a full garden this year and we are still getting vegetables from it.”

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 3911 Sweet Air Road in Phoenix, where he was a member.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of six years, Jennifer S. Morley, a retired management consulting assistant; another son, Richard M. Schmersal of Atlanta, Ga.; two grandchildren; and four step-grandchildren. His first wife of nearly 50 years died in 2009.