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Publication Date: Friday, October 12, 2001

Keeping the music alive Keeping the music alive (October 12, 2001)

Fortnightly Music Club still playing after 93 years

By Amy Goodpaster Strebe

What began as a musical social club by a group of Stanford faculty wives in 1908 has evolved into a 150 member-strong organization that attracts professional music performers and educators, as well as amateurs who are doctors, lawyers, engineers and homemakers from around the Bay Area.

According to club historian Edith Zitelli, the Fortnightly Music Club was given its name because the women who founded it met twice a month. The women studied a variety of composers and played informally for each other in private homes.

"The women had high standards for their club, and had definite rules about attendance and membership," Zitelli said. "I can't praise the women who started this club enough," she said. "They had such great vision and courage. I'm very proud of them."

Zitelli, who has been a member of the club for 54 years, said that in 1912 the women decided to broaden their musical club and bring its music to a larger audience. Because most musical concerts were held in San Francisco back then, the club's organizers decided to survey the area to see if people would be willing to purchase tickets to attend concerts in Palo Alto.

"Palo Alto was some distance from San Francisco back then when there weren't any major highways," she said. "The trip could take a person several hours."

According to Zitelli, the club received a favorable response to their inquiry, and it was decided that they would put on four concerts a year at Stanford's Assembly Hall, which seated 1,746 people.

"Southern Pacific ran a special train from San Mateo with the requirement that at least 125 subscriptions were sold, and a special trolley came from San Jose that had to have 30 passengers on board in order to run," she said.

The Fortnightly Music Club attracted well known musicians from around the world. Performers like Joseph Levine, Mischa Elman, Fritz Kreisler, Pablo Casals, Schumann Heink and modern dancer Martha Graham are just a few of the notables who performed for the club during its heyday.

Zitelli said the concerts were well-attended for 17 years, until the Great Depression when subscriptions dropped and many people gave up their tickets. In 1929 Stanford took the concerts over and they were renamed Associated Students Stanford University (ASSU) concerts.

The club, which didn't hold any musical engagements during World War II, experienced a resurgence of interest following the war. Zitelli said she joined the club in 1947 after learning about it from a woman in her opera workshop run by Jan Popper. "I was really impressed by the club's high level of professionalism," she said. "It gave us an opportunity to perform and also get criticism, and it was absolutely wonderful."

Adam Peace, a Mountain View resident and engineer who works in the area of artificial intelligence research, is president of the Fortnightly Music Club, and a clarinet player. Peace, along with four other members of the club, performed Oct. 7 in the club's first formal concert of the year at Palo Alto's Art Center on Newell Road.

"The quality of the performers in the club is at a high level," he said. "It has a conservatory atmosphere. We have several professional musicians in the club, and it's very helpful to talk to other people who are trying to balance their jobs and music at the same time." Peace said several of the club's musicians live in Mountain View.

Peace, who has been a member for five years, said the club is a good vehicle for networking as well as giving busy professionals in the Silicon Valley an opportunity to do something different that they can look forward to each month.

"Our club is somewhat tilted towards an older crowd, and we'd like to see more young people getting involved," said Peace. Prospective members are subjected to auditions, given by club members in private homes. Peace said those selected for membership are asked to pay a $20 annual fee.

"It's a great thing to be able to work with someone who is musically compatible with you, but at the same time, also perform with new people to keep things interesting," he said.

To learn more about the Fortnightly Music Club, contact Peace at 949-3756 or e-mail him at The club's next concert is scheduled for Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. at the Palo Alto Art Center at 1313 Newell Road.


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