It began as the Ladies Mandolin Club in 1896. The name reflected the popularity of the instrument. In the beginning members were auditioned on the basis of their vocal part or musical instrument. Vocalists had to sing an opera aria and classical songs. Meetings included music study. In 1898, the topics included “Women in Music,” “American Composers,” Modern German, Italian, French, and other European Composers,” and “Religious Music.” They also hosted performances, originally in members homes.
By the World War 1 era, they began hosting visiting artists, using venues such as the Park Theatre, The Ohio Hotel, and the Moose Hall. The Moose Hall became a regular venue and in 1921, the Monday Musical Club donated $1000 in appreciation for use of its auditorium. Among the famous musicians hosted over the years were names like Enrico Caruso, Marian Anderson, Kirsten Flagstad, and Rachmaninoff. During this time, the Monday Musical Club encouraged the fledgling efforts of the Youngstown Symphony.
Stambaugh Auditorium was dedicated on December 5, 1926. The Monday Musical Club presented the first concert in the building the next day, on December 6. Stambaugh Auditorium became its permanent home with many concerts selling out with 2,500 in attendance. Miriam Ullman was president for 29 years from 1939-1943 and 1947-1968, leading the organization during some of its greatest years. Over the years, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Liberace, Glenn Miller, Debbie Reynolds, Olivia Newton John, Tony Bennett, Art Garfunkel and many more performed at concerts. Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians were frequent performers. Waring was part of the 1975 season, and Adrian Slifka gave this review in The Vindicator:
Only five “old-timers” accompanied the maestro on this 19th visit under the auspices of the local club which is marking its 78th season. Last night’s program was principally a choral program, with the focus on 20 excellent singers and instrumentalists who, Waring said, averaged only 20 years of age.
That season included six concerts: Victor Borge, “Jelly Roll” Morton’s Orchestra, Paul LaValle’s Band of America, Mazowsze Polish Dancers, Fred Waring, and Ferrante and Teicher.
These were once elegant affairs with long gowns but eventually transitioned to more casual attire. By 2012 when Kathy Doyle, who had led the Monday Musical Society for 28 years stepped down, they only sponsored three concerts a year and averaged only around 1000 in attendance. Ticket sales did not meet their rising costs. In 2014, the Monday Musical Board of Directors voted to cease operations after 118 years. Its remaining assets, the Monday Musical Club Fund, under the umbrella of the Youngstown Foundation, are granted to other musical arts initiatives in the Youngstown area.
I heard of the Monday Musical Club when I grew up. It seemed higher society than the circumstances in which I grew up, and the musicians, for the most part weren’t ones I listened to. Little did I realize then the stature of those who they hosted, nor the role they played in encouraging the Youngstown Symphony and establishing Stambaugh Auditorium as a premier music venue. Though the Monday Musical Club has ceased operations, it continues to support the musical arts in Youngstown. Pretty impressive for a group of women who gathered to improve their skills as musicians and host gatherings in homes and music halls!
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!