NIOMA school youth orchestra wows "Open Air Musical Festival" crowd in Seattle's Volunteer Park on August 20, 1933.

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 2/14/2013
  • Essay 10310

In the late afternoon of Sunday, August 20, 1933, students from Seattle's new National Institute of Music and Arts, Inc. (NIOMA) present a major open-air concert at Volunteer Park on Seattle's Capitol Hill. A year after its founding on July 7, 1932, Seattle's new music school is geared up enough that it produces the ambitious public concert to demonstrate the progress it has achieved with its "juvenile artists" ("Open Air Musical Festival"). Based out of the University District's Kalberg Building (4519 University Way), NIOMA is offering instruction in instrumental music, vocals, theater arts, and dance. The school already has professional administrators on staff along with notable instructors including Seattle dance star Dorothy Fisher (1910-1988).

 Open Air Musical Festival

In what was presumably a major public debut for NIOMA students, the Volunteer Park "Open Air Musical Festival" was promoted as a free event for the general public. So, at 4:30 p.m. on the Sunday afternoon of August 20, 1933, a sizable portion of the public -- the audience was a reported 3,000 people -- witnessed a remarkable concert. NIOMA's musical director, Charles F. Hodell (1899-?), conducted 400 budding musicians "each with an instrument in his hands" and The Seattle Daily Times perhaps over-generously reported that the children played "with fine precision and good tonality a wide variety of concert numbers, evoking enthusiastic applause from their audience" ("Children in Big Concert").

The newspaper went on to note supportively that "when it is considered that those children are taught in classes and that an average of only thirty-five lessons had been taken by the entire group, their performance ... without any previous ensemble rehearsal seemed little short of phenomenal, it is said" ("Children in Big Concert"). There were surely many glowing Seattle parents bursting with pride that summer afternoon. In addition to the large student band, other students received accolades for their solos. NIOMA faculty also performed as two different string ensembles, and dance department head Fisher -- freshly back from Hollywood and "bringing ripe experience" with her, provided a solo dance number ("Children in Big Concert).

Sources: "Children in Big Concert Win Praise," The Seattle Daily Times, August 27, 1933, p. 12; "Open Air Musical Festival," advertisement, The Seattle Daily Times, August 18, 1933, p. 30; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "National Institute of Music and Arts, Inc. (Seattle)" (by Peter Blecha), (accessed February 14, 2013).

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