Sounds of Idaho Falls

A short history of musicians of our past

Published online: Jan 12, 2022 Articles, History, Lifestyle Jeff Carr
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Cornet band, circa 1900

Of course there was music before the Idaho Falls Music Club. 

Sarah Crow brought the first piano to Eagle Rock in 1883 and began teaching lessons. Alma Marker’s music store opened that same year. By 1885, the Eagle Rock Silver Cornet and String Band was “prepared to furnish music for celebrations, public meetings, picnics, or dances,” according to an ad. Marker had an orchestra, and there was also a cowboy band. Horace Chesbro began selling pianos soon thereafter. 

But perhaps the most important day in local music history was June 7, 1916.

On that day, the first business meeting of the Idaho Falls Music Club was held at the home of Mrs. Spencer. Basic things were decided that day—like who the officers were and when the club would meet. That first meeting got press. The Idaho Falls Daily Post picked up the story, and when the next month rolled around, 27 new members were added. There were no men involved, but each member was listed in the minutes according to their husband’s name. 

Suddenly the organization, started four years earlier by a small group of recent college grads, was going places. At that second meeting in July, a motion was made to separate from the Women’s Club and “be a separate and distinct organization known as the Idaho Falls Music Club.” Members didn’t have to be musicians themselves. 

Appreciating, discussing—that was enough.

The club’s first program was held in September. As the women had decided that their first year would be dedicated to the study of American music, they made the rather thoughtful decision—progressive for 1916—to dedicate their first-ever program to the music of Native Americans. 

“The numbers selected date from the earliest talent on this continent,” the Daily Post reported that “This special phase of music has been somewhat neglected by our music-loving people and only by hearing these compositions can we familiarize ourselves with their peculiar charm.” Appropriately, the next months brought “Music of the Puritans,” “The Colonial Period,” and “Negro Folk Songs.”

If you’ve hung out with us at the Museum of Idaho, you’ve heard us talk about women’s clubs like the Village Improvement Society (VIS) and the Round Table Club. It’s impossible to overstate just how impactful those clubs were in shaping what Idaho Falls is today. The VIS planted the trees, installed the sidewalks, and numbered the streets. With the Round Table Club, which provided cultural and intellectual stimulation, they built the Carnegie Library. 

On March 16, 1949, a special meeting of the Music Club was called to discuss the formation of a symphony orchestra. A motion was passed. That’s the Idaho Falls Symphony. On January 8, 1953, “Mrs. Williams announced the planned opening of the civic auditorium in March.” The club raised money ($1,000 for a Steinway piano) and lobbied for the venue, where later that year, an Idaho Falls High School student named Jim Pike wowed his classmates before going on to earn 11 gold records, five Grammy nominations, and two Billboard Top 10 hits as the lead singer of The Lettermen. 

In 1977, another Music Club decision begat the Idaho Falls Opera Theatre. 

The now-110-year-old club (which allows men now) remains in operation today, providing support for music teachers and offering scholarships, education, and performance opportunities for students of all ages. All this from a gathering of a few young ladies in Mrs. Spencer’s house. Kinda makes you think about starting a club. 

Click here to read more of the January issue of Idaho Falls Magazine. 

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