Founded in 1882, the Schubert Club is one of the oldest existing arts organizations in the country. It has had a significant impact on the cultural life of St. Paul, supporting music education and hosting concerts featuring well-respected local, national, and international musicians.
The Schubert Club grew out of an informal group of music enthusiasts. The group, which initially included men and women, met in private St. Paul homes in the 1870s for evenings of music and conversation. As the musical component of the gatherings became more important, the women in the group decided to create a formal organization called the Ladies Musicale. This new group met in the afternoons and included only women. They had musical study sessions and put on concerts that members performed in and attended. In 1884 the Ladies Musicale changed its name to the Schubert Club in honor of composer Franz Peter Schubert.
In 1887 the Schubert Club was honored at the National Convention of Amateur Women's Clubs for its high level of organization and achievement. The club's membership rolls increased significantly after news of this award appeared in the local papers.
Through the 1890s, the club continued to present regular recitals and lectures on music-related topics at rented venues throughout St. Paul. The majority of performers were local musicians who also were members, but the group regularly was able to attract internationally known talent to give concerts. In 1892 the club hired Emil Oberhoffer, later the first conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, to conduct an orchestra composed entirely of Schubert Club members.
Beginning in this decade, membership was available at three levels: active, associate, and honorary. Later, a student membership level was added.
The Schubert Club focused on music education from the start, first for its members and then for the broader community. The club gave its first scholarship to study music in 1893, and the annual awarding of competitive scholarships to student musicians remains a part of Schubert Club activities.
In 1911 the Schubert Club started a children's music class at West Side Neighborhood House in St. Paul. The program was so successful that within a few years, the club provided classes and affordable private lessons for children at ten other community institutions. By 1932 the Schubert Club Music School had twenty-six teachers who gave two hundred lessons a week.
The demand for music instruction was highest during the Depression and fell off gradually after World War II, leading the club to discontinue its music school in 1958. The Schubert Club continued to provide free in-school concerts for many years, however, and has developed new educational programs for music students such as Project CHEER (Creative Help through Enrichment and Educational Resources).
In 1980 the club established the Schubert Club Museum in the Landmark Center in St. Paul. The museum holds historic and significant instruments from around the world, as well as a notable collection of music-related manuscripts.
The Schubert Club changed from a membership-based organization run by volunteers to a professionally staffed non-profit in the later twentieth century, but its primary focus has stayed the same: to perform live music, usually classical but sometimes contemporary or commissioned new works.
The Schubert Club, which again involves men and women, has sponsored a variety of concert series over the years. In 2011, it organized five: the International Artist Series, Music in the Parks, Courtroom Concerts, Hill House Chamber Concerts, and Family Concerts. It has offices in the Landmark Center and is an Arts Partner along with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.
Bowen, Alexandria Russell. St. Paul's Schubert Club: Matriarch of Music. St. Paul: Schubert Club, 1984.
Carlson, Bruce. "Schubert Club History Reflects Romance of Music in St. Paul." Ramsey County History 10, no. 2 (Fall 1973): 3–12.
Dunn, James Taylor. St. Paul's Schubert Club: A Century of Music, 1882-1982. St. Paul: Schubert Club, 1983.
_____. "St. Paul's Schubert Club: Musical Mentor of the Northwest." Minnesota History 39, no. 2 (Summer 1964): 51–64.
Morton, Zylpha S. "A Brief History of the Schubert Club, 1882–1962." Typescript. 1964.
Sherman, John K. "The Birth of a Symphony Orchestra." Minnesota History 33, no. 3 (Autumn 1952): 93–104.
Spear, Katherine B., and George H. Herrold. Recreation Survey of St. Paul, Minn., initiated and conducted under the supervision of the Playgrounds Committee of the St. Paul City Planning Board by George H. Herrold, managing director and engineer. Edited and written by Katherine B. Spear. Research work project 62-F2-16, Minnesota Emergency Relief Administration, L.P. Zimmerman, Administrator, Sponsored by the St. Paul City Planning Board. St. Paul, 1934.
In 1893, the Schubert Club gives its first scholarship to study music and begins bringing music education to the broader public, along with musical performances.