The Schubert Club, the early years and their impact today

By Barry Kempton

Most people with knowledge of the Minnesota music scene know that The Schubert Club is a very old institution.  It began back in 1882, originally called the Musical Society and then briefly the Ladies Musicale, before getting its current name in 1888.  It was founded by a group of women including Governor Ramsey’s daughter Marion Furness, women who moved with their families to the Midwest leaving their East Coast cultural pursuits behind.  Originally, these women auditioned to join The Schubert Club and paid membership dues.  They met regularly, playing chamber music with and for one another.  It’s maybe not so surprising therefore that they renamed themselves The Schubert Club within 6 years, since music by Franz Schubert was surely the most played and loved by accomplished amateur musicians of the time.  Indeed there were many Schubert clubs across the United States at the time for that same reason.

In 1893, The Schubert Club began to invite solo performers to give recitals in St Paul, major names of the day like Adele Aus der Ohe and Eugene Ysäye.  The Schubert Club instigated a program of free music tuition in 1911 for children whose families were not in a position to pay for it, and in 1922 the annual student scholarship competition began.  Though there is much different about The Schubert Club of today, those particular program elements (or similar ones) still exist in our planning of today.  This past year nearly $60,000 of scholarships was awarded to young musicians and approximately 100 children aged 6-17 took piano and guitar lessons in Project CHEER based at St Paul’s Martin Luther King Center.  These programs – among others – continue to feature in our vision of the future as outlined in our strategic plan which The Schubert Club board adopted just over a year ago.

Though we now have a professional administrative staff and are no longer run by a team of volunteer women, it is worth pointing out that our Board of Directors is still very much a working board.  Led this year by Board President Nina Archabal, every member of the Board serves on at least one committee and commits a significant amount of time, energy, philanthropy and expertise to the organization.  I believe this is a key reason why The Schubert Club still thrives today and has very good reason to look forward to a bright future.

We owe enormous thanks to the four Board Members who rotated off the Board at the end of June having completed their six-year terms.  Lucy Rosenberry Jones, Richard King, Mike Wright and Arlene Didier all gave outstanding service to the organization.  It was fitting for us to present this year’s An die Musik Award to Arlene Didier, who dedicated herself to The Schubert Club Board tirelessly since the early 1970’s.

Read more about the history of The Schubert Club

Photo above from a 1904 Schubert Club program.