Teddy Roosevelt at Ft Wright in 1911
The Heritage of Holy Names Music Center spans more than a century. Five Sisters of the Holy Names arrived in Spokane in 1888 from Portland, Oregon to open an elementary school, and piano lessons were being taught before the end of the year.
The power of music and the arts
The Sisters of the Holy Names have always recognized the power that music and the arts have in people’s lives, and thus, music has played a prominent role in their missions of education and justice.
Early graduates and educational degrees at the school
Fort Wright College of the Holy Names marked an end to a 74-year era with its final commencement on December 19, 1982 when it awarded its last Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in Education degrees.
Through those graduates who had completed their degrees in the previous three-quarters of a century, and their professors, the college passed on its tradition of quality education in the musical arts to students of all ages and abilities to future generations.
Holy Names Music Center Today
Today’s Holy Names Music Center grew out of the preparatory department of Fort Wright College whose offerings of music lessons and performances reached beyond its students into the entire community. That “prep” program for elementary, junior high and senior high school students grew into a Spokane community music school after the college closed. Under the leadership of Janet Gorman, who served as the “new” Holy Names Music Center’s first part time Director, the Music Center increased its faculty and reached out to involve more students, both on site and at other locations.
- Outreach programs of individual and group instruction were offered to private schools including St. Aloysius, St. George’s and Trinity School.
- With age not a prerequisite, preschoolers through senior citizens became involved in music instruction.
161st Infantry Band posted to Ft. Wright circa 1900
In the Fall of 1990, Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, an extension of Mukogawa Women’s University in Nishinomiya, Spokane’s sister city in Japan, opened on the Fort Wright campus. The site had been purchased from the Sisters of the Holy Names earlier in the year in an agreement that provided for the continuation of excellence in music education by means of a 30 year lease on the Music Center and McNally Recital Hall buildings. Students from Mukogawa University travel to the Spokane campus for 14-week classes in English and United States culture, including choral and American music classes at Holy Names Music Center. Japanese students in residence at the Mukogawa U.C Campus (MUSC) are also offered the opportunity to pursue individual instruction at the Music Center.
Hiring Leadership for the School
In the Summer of 1991, with a community-based Advisory Board coming, and the prospect of the Music Center becoming Spokane’s community music school, Chuck Lund was hired as a part time Interim Director to spearhead a national search for a full time center director. In February of 1993, [Judith L. Myers, PhD] was hired as the first full time Music Center Director, and the development of a community Board of Trustees, which would carry increased responsibility for the direction and financial viability of Holy Names Music Center, was initiated.
Impacting generations of musicians and artists
Over the Years, Holy Names Music Center (1982- present) and its predecessors, Fort Wright College of the Holy Names (1960-1982), Holy Names College (1938-1960) and Holy Names Normal School (1907-1938), prepared many music teachers, fine performers, community leaders of the arts, and patrons who perpetuate quality music throughout the region and nation as well as internationally.
- A review of current and past rosters of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra continues to list the names of many persons who teach or taught, studied or studied with persons who were trained within the Holy Names or Fort Wright College “system”.
The same is true of music educators and performers whose work impacts the broader Spokane area today.
To highlight a few:
- Xavier Mary Courvoisier, SNJM, a well known violinist and violin teacher, has conducted the Spokane Junior Symphony, the Whitworth College Community Symphony, and, until Fall 1994, the Gonzaga University Symphony;
- Flavia Bauer, SNJM, who taught piano and American music for Mukogawa University at the Music Center, and previously was Chair of the Music Department and Director of her Religious Community in the Washington Province;
- Susan Windham, soprano and voice teacher, who studied with Sister Marietta Coyle as did
- Thomas Hampson, baritone, and, Douglas Johnson, tenor, who are currently performing internationally.