Arts & Culture

Dana Oland: Boise Tuesday Musicale celebrates a century in tune

Dana Oland
Dana Oland

When Josh Archibald-Seiffer was 14, he received a Boise Tuesday Musicale scholarship for playing an original composition. It was a feat he would repeat three years in a row. Archibald-Seiffer, now a doctoral composition student at the University of Washington, is just one of the thousands of young and emerging Idaho musicians who have benefited from the generosity of this community arts organization. It will celebrate its 100th birthday this week.

“It really meant a lot to me,” Archibald-Seiffer says. “Competing like that is so exciting, and they’re such an appreciative audience. They’re truly wanting to help students and they’ve done an amazing job fostering music in this community.”

For 100 years, the members of Tuesday Musicale have connected people through music. The group will celebrate May 15 with a gala at the Hillcrest Country Club that will include a concert by past scholarship winners and special guests Kevin Kirk and Onomatopoeia and the Dmitri Sting Quartet, a mix of students from Treasure Valley high schools.

The event also will offer a glimpse of the group’s history with a slide show and a video tribute by area musicians.

The Tuesday Musicale was founded in 1915 as a music appreciation group. The members held luncheons, produced concerts and gathered to study mostly classical music and the work of specific composers. The group is part of the foundation of Boise’s musical community. It was there at the start of Boise Music Week and at the beginning of the Boise Philharmonic Master Chorale.

“It was really the thing back then and very much part of Boise society,” says pianist Halimah Brugger, who has been a member since she came to Boise in 1998 to fill in for Boise State University piano professor Del Parkinson’s sabbatical.

Many of its former scholarship winners have gone on to study music and play with the Boise Philharmonic, such as Tom Tompkins, who was its principal violist for many years. Tompkins received an award when he was in junior high.

“It was cool,” Tompkins remembers. “We got blue ribbons and plaques. The judges would give critiques. That was incredible to get feedback from someone new, not your teacher. And you got to perform. That’s an important part of how you grow as a musician. You can’t practice performing unless you perform. It’s a whole different beast than playing in the practice room.”

By 1942, the group had honed its mission to support the city’s cultural development by giving scholarships to young musicians and became affiliated with the National Federation of Music Clubs. Its competitions bring in nationally ranked judges.

It started with music teachers wanting to give their students a chance to perform. It eventually became a judged scholarship competition. Today, the group gives between $7,000 and $8,000 annually to junior and high school musicians.

Through the Joyce A. Chaffer Scholarship Trust, it awards between $40,000 and $50,000 each year to a serious piano, harpsichord and organ player at the college level. To be eligible, students must either be Idaho residents or studying in Idaho. The trust was created by Chaffer’s Boise-based family after she died in a plane crash in 1976. It was converted to a scholarship trust in 1996 to benefit Idaho musicians.

“There is no other state that gives as much to young musicians,” Brugger says. That is according to the National Federation.

True to its name, Tuesday Musicale continues its tradition of producing Music at Midday, a free performance on the second Tuesday of each month that is open to the public at the Idaho Music Academy. It also produces the annual “Monster Concert,” a grand performance by local musicians that is sponsored by Dunkley Music each fall. It is its largest fundraiser for the junior and high school scholarships.

Like many deeply rooted Idaho groups, Tuesday Musicale struggles with questions of how to continue to grow as most of its leadership heads into their 60s and beyond. It’s time to cultivate a new generation of leaders to keep the group moving forward, says president Jennifer Sullivan, who is in her 40s. She heads the String Department for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony Education Department and teaches at Northwest Nazarene University.

“It’s still a significant thing to win these awards,” Sullivan says. “It’s a great way to build your resume, because in the music field, people everywhere understand what we’re doing. After the centennial, we’re going to look at how to evolve the group and modernize it.”

The group launched its first website this year.