First Advisor

Dr. Lisa Feurzeig


Grand Rapids, Music, Musicology, Music History, Indianist Movement, Women, Clubs, American Music, Classical Music, Art Music, 20th Century



Included in

Music Commons




This project focuses on outlining the vibrant musical soundscape and traditions of Grand Rapids Michigan at the turn of the 20th century. At the forefront of this research is the contrast between men’s and women’s clubs at the time. Our analysis indicates that the foremost women’s club–the St. Cecilia’s Society–took a more nuanced and intellectual approach to musical programming and performance whereas their male counterparts were more focused on the social and public view of their club; this view is in line with the historical trend of women’s clubs holding a great deal of power in the arts at the time. Part of our analysis comes from researching the Grand Rapids May Festival, a colossal financial failure, put on by the all-male Schubert Club; the analysis further concludes that the concept of a May Festival was a growing trend in the Midwestern United States in the early 20th century. Our research also employs a statistical review of public and church performances in Grand Rapids during the entirety of 1903, an approach that found an overwhelming preference of contemporary American over European composers. Other findings include a growing interest in Indigenous North American music, particularly in the context of utilizing these styles over the growing dominance of African musical elements. The story of Grand Rapids musical life is set against the backdrop of a resistant public whose apathy made the ambitions of impassioned advocates of the arts particularly difficult.