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About Frank V. de Bellis Audio Collection

Frank V. de Bellis’s Audio Collection contains audio files for historic recordings dating back to the 1890s that are housed in the Frank V. de Bellis Collection at San Francisco State University: it is a unique cultural resource that chronicles the history of Italy’s early recording industry that was consolidated with various company mergers. SFSU has been entrusted to guard, protect, and maintain this collection of files from diverse audio formats that have been transferred (digitized) and preserved to create perpetual public access. The de Bellis Audio Collection includes early recordings from Berliner, Odeon, Cetra, “La Voce del Padrone,” and Zonophone, as well as a nearly complete representation of Italian artists from Pathé’s pre-electric output and almost the entire vocal output from Fonotipia. The de Bellis Audio Collection also includes unique recordings of singers born during the late-1800s who created roles, in many cases, and worked directly under the direction of the composers. Collection Provenance: Frank V. de Bellis (November 20, 1898 – February 13, 1968) promoted Italian-American cultural exchange in San Francisco, California. Self-educated, he collected Italian cultural materials that were later donated to institutions of higher education. He donated his personal library of 15,000 rare books and manuscripts and 22,000 recordings to California State University to be housed at San Francisco State College on February 8, 1963. Upon accepting the collection, California State College Trustee Dan Ridder described the Collection as “the best private library of this sort of material in the country.” The Frank V. de Bellis Collection opened to the public on February 22, 1964.The collection also houses an archive of audio files as well as transcripts from Frank V. de Bellis’s radio program “Music of the Italian Masters” transferred from reel-to-reel tape. Frank V. de Bellis made a point to collect all of the complete Italian operas that had been recording in their entirety from 1905 until his death in 1968, which included the primitive, acoustical method, electric type recording, as well as long playing records. Prior to his broadcasting career, de Bellis loaned recordings of complete operas to various radio stations including KYA, KSFO, KSMP, and KDFC. He launched a weekly radio program called Records from Italy playing records from his own collection on KPFA on November 4,1948, then he developed a polished program of Italian music recordings interspersed with commentary in English that concentrated on little known works and composers. On May 7, 1950, de Bellis premiered weekly two-hour program Music of the Italian Masters on KSMO (later KEAR). On October 25, 1966, the National Education Radio Network (NAEB) selected the Frank V. de Bellis Collection/”Music of the Italian Masters” for distribution. By the time of his death in 1968, over 100 public radio stations carried the program. Frank's third wife Serena de Bellis (1928-2017) served as curator for the Frank V. de Bellis Collection at San Francisco State University until her retirement in 1989. Serena continued to produce “Music of the Italian Masters” until June 1986 as a production of the Collection in cooperation with KQED FM in San Francisco and KUSC in Los Angeles. Dr. Thomas Griffin wrote the scripts and Gene Parrish served as the host; the Broadcast Communication Arts Department at San Francisco State University provided the engineering for the program. (more)

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