Monster Melodies: 'This is 'Monster' as in 'Big' or 'Gigantic,' Not 'Scary.'' 

Boise Monster Piano Concert hits all the right notes

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Boise Tuesday Musicale

In 2002, Nona Haddock was getting her car serviced and happened to strike up a conversation with another woman in the waiting room. It turned out that Haddock and Marion Corron were both music fans, specifically piano aficionados, who bemoaned the lack of opportunities to showcase Treasure Valley piano students. But Corron told Haddock about events she'd seen in Arizona that put the spotlight simultaneously on dozens of pianists across the spectrum of age, talent, and genre in one concert: a massive love letter to song.

In that moment, in the waiting room of that car dealership, the Boise Monster Piano Concert was born.

"But this is 'monster' as in 'big' or 'gigantic,' not 'scary,'" Haddock was quick to add.

Sixteen years later, the event has grown into a staple of the Idaho piano community. While it remains a celebration of music, Haddock and the other members of Boise Tuesday Musicale, a 103 year-old nonprofit focusing on music education, have turned the event into a yearly fundraiser.

click to enlarge BOISE TUESDAY MUSICALE
  • Boise Tuesday Musicale

Last year, the concert brought together 73 participants: 62 pianists, 10 violinists and one flutist to play a selection of songs in unison. In the end, the $8,000 in proceeds went to 44 aspiring young musicians. The students must perform in front of a panel of judges and the money can be used to attend training camps around the state or in any other way the committee feels will "help improve their musical training."

The performers range from "preschoolers to grandparents," or as Haddock put it: "Anyone who can play." In fact, some of the performers have been participating in the event since its debut. And while a Boise Tuesday Musicale committee decides the music, the students are on their own when it comes to preparation. In a tradition that would terrify even the most accomplished of performers, the huge ensemble that makes up the Boise Monster Piano Concert rehearses together only once before taking the stage in front of an audience.

Apart from the skills they develop, Haddock says the major takeaway for the artists is the comradery they form with their fellow performers.

"They learn the importance of keeping a steady beat, following a conductor, but also how to perform musically as a group," she said.

The concert's continued success, Haddock stressed, is owed in part to Mark Dunkley. The current owner of the Dunkley Music store, which began in downtown Boise in 1950 and now has three locations in the Treasure and Magic valleys, provides concert pianos and keyboards for the event free of charge, even absorbing all of the cost related to moving and setting up the instruments. Haddock said that generosity allows organizers and musicians to focus solely on the music.

"This year's theme is Tour of the World. Nineteen countries are represented by selected music, including folk tunes, dances and classical pieces," Haddock says. Her favorite piece is a Cuban song called "Cancun Cha-Cha-Cha" a trio arrangement that involves three players on one piano.

The true origins of The Monster Concert, fittingly, are rooted in two cities with rich musical legacies: New Orleans and Havana, Cuba. Louis Moreau Gottschalk, a New Orleans-born pianist, was famous for performing with massive orchestras; his largest being in 1860, when he put together 900 musicians on a single stage in Havana. And while Haddock isn't counting on pulling in something so overwhelming for the Boise Monster Piano Concert, she says she does hope people will show up, no matter the size of the orchestra. The concert raises much-needed funds to assist the students in their music education, but Haddock said it's equally important to have a full house in order to show students that their art matters to the community.

While the Boise Monster Piano Concert is a highlight of the cultural calendar, the Boise Tuesday Musicale has a high profile throughout the year, offering spring and fall music festivals, music workshops for educators and its wildly-popular Boise Music Week each May. The head-spinning Music Week schedule is the classical music version of Treefort, and 2019 it will mark its 100th anniversary. It's no wonder that Boise Tuesday Musicale also tames the region's biggest musical "monster" each September.

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