Wednesdays usually mean two things—you’re one day closer to the weekend and, at the end of the day, you realize how much work stands between you and that weekend. In 1923, the founding members of the Wednesday Music Club deemed the midweek mark a cause for celebration.
“They met Wednesday mornings because they had a maid in to look after their children,” says Barbara Moore, who has been a member of the Wednesday Music Club since the mid-1970s. “They wanted to meet and make music together. They weren’t teachers or professionals—no one worked outside of the home. So they met in one another’s homes for years.”
In the 1950s, the club helped build what is now the Charlottesville High School Orchestra and establish music programs throughout the city’s public schools. Its membership included more than 100 professional and amateur musicians, music appreciators, teachers and students, growing primarily through word-of-mouth or music teachers offering to sponsor their students to join what was then an exclusive club, Moore recalls.
They began meeting, practicing and hosting performances at Kappa Sigma’s national headquarters on Ivy Road, where frat members would often linger. “There would be people sleeping on the piano and putting drinks on it, and using the cover as a blanket. We’d find them wrapped up in it in a closet,” Moore says.
Decades later, there are writers, photographers, professors and accomplished musicians in what club president Joyce Seibert calls a diverse group. Vice President Donna Authers refers to herself as a newer member. She joined seven years ago, and found camaraderie and friendship in the club. “These are my dear friends. We’ve been through deaths, children and people coming and going,” Moore says, telling a story of a member in her piano interest group who has Alzheimer’s but still remembers how to play the piano. “Music has deep roots in your soul,” says Moore.
Seibert has been a member for the past 15 years, and her mother was a member until she passed away at 95 years old. When Seibert discusses the future of the club, she thinks about her mother.
“At 95, she wasn’t really starting a lot of new things,” Seibert says. “We could be resting on our laurels, but we decided we’re not going to do that. We’re going to see what the community needs are, and to look for partners where that might work.”
In addition to hosting monthly music programs, student recitals and competitions with cash prizes, the club offers need-based music lesson tuition scholarships. Moore serves on the tuition committee, and says with the help of donations, the club can fund up to 54 percent of students’ music lessons.
“It’s amazing to me what families are doing here to keep their kids in the arts,” says Moore. “There are families of three or four or five who have a net income of $30,000, and they’re still trying to get their kids into lessons.”
Thanks to a bequest from Robert Smith, another longtime member who died in 2014 and an early advocate for equal access to the arts, WMC is growing its outreach programs. The additional funding helps with scholarships for UVA, JMU and VCU students, and for students in counties adjacent to the city and Albemarle.
In 2017, WMC began a pilot program in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia on Cherry Avenue. Together with volunteer teachers, fifth-graders get an hour of private coaching on instruments, complete their school credit and assignments and can access a computer-learning music program rented by the WMC.
“The pilot started September 15, so when August 12 happened, we looked at each other and said that music transcends all barriers,” says Seibert. “Every kid has a song in their heart. We’re doing something to communicate hope for the future.”