Niles Music Club is no more

Published 3:34 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - With a few pounds of the tiny wooden gavel, the Niles Music Club came to order for the last time.
The group has met since 1895 and at one time, in 1953, boasted a membership of 184. More than 50 years later, participation has dropped enough that nearly every member present Tuesday afternoon had served as president of the club.
But, the final gathering was not the last Niles will hear of the 111-year-old organization. The club decided to establish an endowment with the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation using the nearly $18,000 remaining of their funds. Members voted to continue presenting an annual scholarship to a music student in the Niles, Brandywine and Buchanan area.
The first meetings of the Saturday Music Club were organized in 1895. The club was originally exclusively for women and meetings were held in the homes' of its members.
The Saturday Music club was re-named the Niles Musical Club, and eventually changed to the Niles Music Club. The group began meeting in a Niles hotel in 1917 and moved to a more prestigious location in the 1930s.
By 1925, the club had 127 members, 53 active members presenting programs and 74 associate members that would provide refreshments at meetings, which were held twice a month.
The grand piano purchased by the club in 1932 was placed in the Queen Anne Room for use during meetings and allowed hotel guests to play, as well.
Hotel and piano repair costs and declining membership forced the club to move its meetings in 1963 to the YMCA. The club remained at the ‘Y' for nearly 20 years until 1982, when it moved to the social room of the Niles District Library.
The club's long-time tradition of awarding area music students with scholarships for college or camps began in 1948. That year, Gloria (Eisen) Cooper received support from the club to spend a summer practicing her marimba at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Another Niles area music student awarded a scholarship from the club was Philip Zawisza. Stauffer said the award in 1978 was for Zawisza to use at Interlochen with his trombone. But, while at the summer camp, Zawisza was discovered to be quite a baritone as well and has since made a living as an opera singer.
The decision to place the club's remaining funds into the endowment was unanimous, as was the commitment to present the annual scholarship to a student in the Niles, Brandywine or Buchanan area, “where most of the efforts for this fund have come,” Jim Warren said.
It was also decided the distribution of the fund would remain flexible. Donations, gifts and memorials were all accepted as ways to add to the amount. And, college scholarships and money for camps and private lessons were discussed as options for distributing the gifts.
A member of the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation board of directors, Patrick McCullough, said the club would also be able to appoint its own members to a committee in charge of dispensing the money. The same committee members would also be allowed to choose their successors.
To close the program, the club invited Bill Bosler of Three Rivers to play his hammer dulcimer.
The instrument was a shallow box and consisted of dozens of strings stretched across two bridges - for treble and bass - and was made of spruce, walnut and cherry wood. Bosler used two thin mallets, or hammers, to hit the strings and produce the bouncy, sometimes Eastern, sounds.
Bosler played a few of the songs he wrote himself, including a jig he constructed while staying in a hotel room.
But, it was the soothing sounds of Bosler's ‘Santa Bell Sunset' that set the tone of the afternoon and waved the final goodbye to the Niles Music Club.