Idaho History: Two Idaho men who made a name in music

IDAHO HISTORY

SPECIAL TO THE STATESMANJuly 6, 2014 

Hometown newspapers have always been pleased to report the successes local men and women achieved outside Idaho, especially if they managed to achieve national fame.

In the field of classical music the name of Arthur Shepherd stands out. On April 19, 1913, the Idaho Statesman reported: "IDAHO BOY WINS HIGH HONORS IN BOSTON. Arthur Shepherd of Paris Is Awarded First Prize in Competition for Choral Work."

Shepherd, who was 33 when he won this prize, already had a notable musical career behind him. He was born in the small Mormon community of Paris, Idaho, in 1880 to parents who were English converts to the LDS church. He was enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, the largest such school in the country, when he was only 12 years old. He graduated in 1897 at age 17 and returned to Utah, where he conducted the Utah Symphony before being called back to Boston to serve on the faculty of the New England Conservatory.

In World War I he served in the U.S. Army in France as a military bandmaster. After the war he moved to Cleveland, where he was assistant director of the Cleveland Symphony. In 1927 he went back to teaching, this time at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University), where he was chairman of the music department from 1933 until 1948, and was music critic for the Cleveland Press.

Clarence H. Tolman, born on a ranch on Fish Creek in Bannock County in 1896, had a far different life and musical career. An Idaho Statesman headline on May 1, 1927, read "Idaho Boy Makes Broadway Hit." The show was "The Countess Maritza" by Hungarian composer Kalman, performed at the Jolson Theater in New York. Tolman, who had been a cowboy before making it on Broadway, sang a tenor role in the popular operetta for two seasons, played in vaudeville, and sang with the touring Schubert Opera Company. He served in the U.S. Marines in both world wars but was not sent overseas. He played piccolo in the Marine Band in San Francisco in World War I.

After settling in Portland during World War II, where he was a Marine Corps recruiter, he joined a locally popular male chorus called the Hoot Owls that performed regularly on radio station KGW. He died in Gresham, Ore., in 1995 at the age of 99.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email histnart@mindspring.com.

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