Home News Local news Black History Spotlight: Peter Gregory Thurland Sr.

Black History Spotlight: Peter Gregory Thurland Sr.


Feb. 4, 2007 — Peter Gregory Thurland Sr. was a master craftsman renowned for his skills in creating unique pieces of wood furniture and home accents. Music was Thurland's second passion and, like his woodwork, he passed on the appreciation of this art form to generations of young Crucians.
Thurland was born on Feb. 19, 1892, in Christiansted to Sarah and George Thurland. As a youth, he learned to play the trombone and baritone horn while developing a great love of music. In September 1917, shortly after the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States, Thurland enlisted in the U.S. Navy and became a member of the Navy Band.
While enlisted, Thurland utilized both of his talents, first assisting in the construction of the Christiansted Bandstand and then playing there at monthly concerts with the Christiansted Naval Band. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in September 1921.
After his military stint, Thurland taught music at the Anna's Hope Vocational School, where he not only wrote music for his student's performances but also played most of the instruments. In her book about her grandfather, Peter G. Thurland Sr., Master Cabinetmaker and Band Leader, Karen Thurland stated, "Peter's love of music expressed itself throughout his life. He not only played for his own enjoyment but developed and encouraged the same love in others."
That love of music and sharing the gift led Thurland to organize the first community band on St. Croix in 1938. The band included members from both Christiansted and Frederiksted, making it a true community band — no small feat in a time when transportation between the towns was scarce.
The band's first performance was in a procession welcoming Bishop Edwin Vincent Byrne to the Holy Cross Church in Christiansted. Shortly after, the band held a concert on the Frederiksted waterfront. The West End News edition of May 31, 1938, had high praise for the band, saying, "It was a treat to us to again hear such masterpieces as 'II Trovatore' and 'Minuet in G.'" He conducted the band until 1967, when he suffered a stroke.
Thurland taught his sons, daughters and grandchildren to play musical instruments. In 1964, Angelo Marasco, the music teacher at Christiansted High School, asked him to accompany the school band on its stateside tour. It was one of the highlights of his life. The band traveled to the New York World's Fair, attended and was televised on "The Ed Sullivan Show," visited Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall and enjoyed a boat ride around Manhattan.
In 1994, Delegate to Congress Ron deLugo introduced H.R. 4338 in the 103rd Congress to name the Christiansted Bandstand the Peter G. Thurland Sr. Bandstand.
"It is a fitting tribute to his leadership, courage and contributions to the community of St. Croix to designate the Christiansted Bandstand in honor and memory of Peter G. Thurland Sr.," deLugo said. Congress adopted the measure.
Today the descendants of Peter G. Thurland Sr. still wait for the V.I. government to act on this measure and formally dedicate the bandstand in his name. Several senators have tried but nothing has been accomplished, his granddaughter Karen said recently.
Thurland, the father of five children — Genevieve, Winifred, Will, Albert and Peter Jr. — died on March 18, 1984.
The information referenced here is a result of Web-based research, books or newspaper articles. In some cases family members or friends have provided details of the subject's life. For more information or to send your comments on the article, contact the Source at [email protected].
In observance of February as Black History Month, the Source has been highlighting a number of contemporary and historic individuals born in the Virgin Islands who have made major contributions in areas including civil rights, science, literature, sports and entertainment.

Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here