Concert violinist Genevieve Maria Fodrea

Monday, February 20, 2017

One of the really fine musicians in Southwest Nebraska in the early years of the 20th century was Genevieve Fodrea, of Cambridge. Genevieve was born, in Cambridge, in 1890, the youngest of five children of Nathan and Kate (Parker) Fodrea, in 1890. Nathan had been a pioneer Douglas County school teacher; Kate was from a pioneer family who had come from Ohio to Fort Omaha in a covered wagon.

In Cambridge, Mr. Fodrea operated a hardware and farm implement business, but when Genevieve was 3 years old, the family moved to Grand Island, when Mr. Fodrea was appointed state examiner of county treasurer accounts. It was here, at age 7, that Genevieve began her violin lessons, under the tutelage of a Mr. Becker. By age 10 Genevieve and her sister, Pearl were regularly entertaining at various civic meetings (such as the Temperance Club, and church Ladies Aid meetings) in Grand Island.

In 1901, Mr. Fodrea was appointed chief bookkeeper in the State Treasurer's office, in Lincoln. Though only 11 years old, Genevieve entered the University of Nebraska School of Music as a special violin student, and from this time on she appeared frequently in University and city recitals and concerts. Later on, Genevieve took the prescribed courses at the School of Music, including harmony, history of music, theory and analysis. She graduated in the Class of 1909.

Genevieve and her sister, Pearl, also a graduate of the School of Music and an accomplished pianist, gave many programs while they lived in Lincoln, including one lawn party given at the William Jennings Bryan home. For that party the piano was moved to the front porch, and the windows opened so that guests on the front lawn could hear the music. Apparently, the girls were favorites of Mr. and Mrs. Jennings, as they were invited frequently to play at the Jennings home.

Genevieve's graduation recital was held at the University Temple Theater. From the Lincoln Journal: "The Temple Theater was crowded last evening on both the main floor and in the balcony for the violin recital given by Genevieve Marie Fodrea ... In her program of five difficult numbers, she exhibited attainments of a high order and remarkable composure for so young a performer...Her most brilliant technique was the Paganini...the innumerable difficulties of this big work were overcome in masterly style."

After graduation, Genevieve spent another year at the University as an assistant violin instructor, and as concertmeister of the orchestra. She also toured on several occasions through Nebraska, South Dakota, and Kansas with two other students---the Fodrea-Winter Concert Co.

Winter touring through Nebraska in 1910 was a true adventure -- roads were rough, automobiles were unreliable, and communication was primitive. From Cozad to Eustis a bridge washed out. The girls had to wade across the Platte River, carrying their suitcases and instruments, to meet a "rig" on the other side. Foot warmers were not adequate, and their hotel was unheated, and to keep warm they paced all night. A stage coach ride from Stockville to Indianola was bumpy and swayed so much the girls got sick. They barely made the 6:30 a.m. train for McCook. But everywhere the girls wowed their audiences, "The company should feel gratified by the rounds of applause ... and should be secured for next year, if possible."

In the fall of 1911, Genevieve gave her post-graduate recital at the Temple Theater. It was a huge triumph, attended by many friends and townspeople as well as students and faculty, and Genevieve's sorority sisters. Afterward, an informal reception was held, as a going away party before Genevieve left for her studies with Professor Sevcik, in Vienna, Austria.

Miss Fodrea studied with the eminent Professor Sevecik for a year and profited a great deal from the experience. With loans from her family, she was able to spend a second year studying at the Berlin School of Music and playing with the school orchestra. With the approach of World War I, she returned to the United States where she joined the Tuttle Co. of Carlisle Pa., for a 30-week tour at $50 per week (her first REAL money from her art.) Again, newspaper accounts were glowing in their praise, singling out her "crisp clear virile violin passages."

In 1917, Genevieve joined the faculty of the Little Rock Conservatory of Music in Arkansas. Here she worked with the Teachers Association to outline a new course for credit for high school students in the state. This was in the midst of World War I and Genevieve gave numerous programs for the servicemen stationed at Camp Pike, just outside Little Rock.

She had decided to join another touring company for the upcoming 1920 season and returned to Cambridge, Neb., to visit her mother and sister for the summer when she met a young man, John William Trenchard, who had recently returned from Army service in France. Concert tours were soon forgotten, and the couple was married in 1921.

In Cambridge, Genevieve was quickly caught up in the local music scene, organizing and directing The Little Symphony Orchestra (18 musicians). Over the next years, the group gave numerous programs, usually featuring Genevieve in one or two solo numbers. Money collected from these concerts was used to buy music, and over time developed into quite an enviable music library.(That library has been donated to the McCook Library, for use by area ensembles.)

Genevieve also gave violin lessons in her home. Students came from all over Southwest Nebraska, and some proceeded to study violin further and work professionally. Eleanor (Suess) Harris regularly traveled to Cambridge via the railroad for her lessons. She later studied at the famed Julliard School of Music in New York City and shared her talent in McCook for many years.

As Mrs. Trenchard's own children became old enough to start lessons, she started them on a quarter-sized violin. Soon the Trenchard quartet (Genevieve 1st violin, Catherine, Jack, and Bob in supporting roles) was appearing before local and state groups throughout the area. In turn, as grandchildren came along more quartets were formed, Genevieve always helping.

In 1962, while getting ready for a Christmas concert, Genevieve suffered a slight stroke. That concert went on without her, and after that she did not try to teach again. However, she did continue to work with various string ensembles and unselfishly shared her music and talent with countless soloists and ensembles. When the University of Nebraska Music School was introducing a "strings program" in McCook she and her daughter traveled to McCook to play with the orchestra being developed in the community.

Genevieve's health gradually declined after 1962, though she continued to attend concerts in McCook and Holdrege and was able to carry on her household duties in her home. She passed away in November 1967, at the age of 77 years.

In dedicating the gift of silver candelabra, given in her memory to the First Congregational Church in Cambridge, a friend, Mrs. Ethel Minnick, quoted John 8:12

"Ye are the light of the world. Men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men."

Mrs. Minnick, "We light these candles and dedicate these candelabra in loving memory of Genevieve Trenchard, whose life and service are forever as lighted candles in our midst."

-- Source: Unpublished work by Mrs. Trenchard's daughter, Catherine Potter

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