Music has always been a part of Ann Arbor life. At the first July 4th celebration in 1825, town founder John Allen’s father played the fiddle for singing and dancing. Two years later, Lucy Ann Clark’s piano—the first west of Detroit—arrived by oxcart. When she played, Potowatomi Indians were said to dance to the strange melodies.German immigrants, local singing groups, bands, parlor organs, and churches kept the town alive with music.
When the Union School opened on State Street in 1856, music instruction was available with singing, piano, harp, guitar, and violin primarily for girls. Male student bands, orchestras, and banjo groups sprang up whenever music enthusiasts got together. Instrumental music was made part of instruction in all public schools in the 1920s.
Music lovers from town and gown began a last- ing tradition by creating the Choral Union in 1879 to sing Handel’s Messiah. Conductor Calvin Cady also privately started the School of Music and the University Orchestra. All three groups were united in 1881 as the University Musical Society.