Boise Music Week - Historical Highlights
Eugene A. Farner, director of musical activities at St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral and St.Margaret’s School (now Boise State University), and director of the Boise Civic Festival Chorus, returned to Boise after serving in the United States Army in World War I. Together with members of the chorus and leaders of the community, he initiated Boise Music Week in May 1919. His vision for Boise Music Week was (1) to provide for local performers to contribute their talents to the community and (2) to provide an annual event conducted entirely free of commercial profit. While other cities in the United States established local music weeks at about the same time, Boise’s remained unique because of its local focus and admission-free events.
In the 1920s through World War II, Boise Music Week events occurred on a large wooden platform constructed in front of the Idaho Statehouse. The performers during those years – the Festival Chorus, the Boise Municipal Band, local organists, the Boise Tuesday Musical Club, school choirs, and church choirs – were the precursors to today’s School Night, Church Night, Showcase and Noontime Organ Recital events. The outdoor venue was abandoned when War restrictions on the use of lumber forced performers indoors, but reinstated in the mid-1970s when Boise Music Week initiated Music in the Park at the Julia Davis (now Gene Harris) Bandshell.
Drama presentations and pageants were also important during the early years of Boise Music Week. Pageants depicting events of early American history and European culture, complete with lavish sets and colorful costumes, were performed on the wooden platform and later moved indoors. Expanding the tradition of local pageantry, Boise Music Week produced its first Broadway play in 1959. The musical, Oklahoma, was an instant hit with local audiences. Local high schools housed the productions until 1988, when Velma Morrison and the Harry W. Morrison Foundation invited Boise Music Week to perform at the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts. The musicals staged there continue to draw Boise Music Week’s largest crowds. While most events in this magnificent hall command substantial ticket prices, Boise Music Week musicals are still free to the public.
Even though Boise today is considered a point of destination for world-renowned performers, Boise Music Week, with its focus on providing opportunities for local performers to participate in the culture of their community, at no charge to the community, remains as unique and relevant a cultural force as it was in 1919.
Every year, 2,000 volunteers give more than 35,000 hours to produce Boise Music Week events to audiences of over 15,000. We continue to draw praise from the community. In 2005 Boise Music Week received the prestigious honor of the Mayor’s Spotlight Award for Excellence in the Arts and has also been a finalist in Boise Weekly’s The Best of Boise.
Boise Music Week continues to survive on personal donations and corporate sponsorships. We appreciate your continued support.