The Ladies Musical Club of Seattle Celebrates 125 Years

Lynn Muehleisen, President, Ladies Musical Club of Seattle | Jun 30, 2016, 11:18 p.m.
On March 21, 1921 members of the Ladies Musical Club of Seattle celebrated the 30th anniversary of their first concert

Seattle in 1891 was no place for a refined lady, but in March of that year twenty-two women, all trained musicians, gathered together determined to make a positive impact on the cultural life of their young city. At a time when women were outnumbered by men in the Puget Sound three-to-one, these determined women decided they wanted to live in a community that valued great classical music. Since it was difficult in 1891 for women to pursue professional music careers, the newly minted Ladies Musical Club of Seattle began a series of concerts with their own talented members. By September of that same year, the organization would boast fifty members and plans for twelve concerts.

But the intrepid Ladies had bigger plans!

As the success of Ladies Musical Club (LMC) grew, a plan was devised to bring internationally acclaimed musical artists to perform in Seattle. At that time, none of the organizations such as the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera existed to attract great musicians to the Puget Sound region, and asking a musician to travel all the way from New York or Europe to a pioneering, rough-and-tumble place like Seattle was a huge risk, both physically and economically. They devised a plan to underwrite the fees of the musicians so there would be, at least, no economic risk in taking the train all the way from New York to Seattle.

Rose Gottstein was the woman to get the job done. In 1895, Mrs. Gottstein traveled on the train to New York City herself, cash in hand, to entice musical artists and their representatives to commit to performing in the Ladies Musical Club International Series Concerts, as they would come to be known. As soon as Mrs. Gottstein was able to confirm the artist’s commitment, she hurriedly traveled back to Seattle where the members of LMC busied themselves with selling tickets to cover their costs. It was a huge risk, but it paid off. The series ran from 1900 to 1995 and featured such musical giants as Fritz Kreisler, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Marian Anderson, Igor Stravinsky, Yehudi Menuhin, Artur Rubenstein, Elly Ameling, Marilyn Horne, and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenburg, to name just a few.

The impact of bringing, on average, four great musicians or musical ensembles every year to a community that had never had such concerts is incalculable.LMC brought ensembles such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1901-1902 season); Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony Orchestra (1907-1908 season); and an entire Italian opera company in the 1920-1921 season including soloists, chorus, conductor, orchestra, sets and costumes. At a time when recorded music was rare and of very poor quality, these concerts were THE cultural events of the year.

The Ladies Musical Club is celebrating 125 years of great music and service to our community. On Thursday, July 7th we will be celebrating our quasiquicentennial (125th) anniversary at The Museum of History and Industry in South Lake Union with two free 30-minute performances at 5 and 6:30pm. These brief concerts will commemorate our long history and our current programs, which impact our community today. Celebratory birthday cupcakes will be offered between the two performances.

Entrance to MOHAI is free that day, so please join us to celebrate our anniversary and to enjoy MOHAI’s fascinating exhibits chronicling the history of our region.

To find out more about what the Ladies Musical Club of Seattle is doing as we continue to foster classical music in our community through education, performance and awards, be sure to visit our website: lmcseattle.org.

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