For decades, composer, musician and teacher Gerald Hartley helped the youth of Spokane become architects of their own fates as he mentored them with music.
Hartley, 99, died at home earlier this month surrounded by family.
Hartley was born on Sept. 18, 1921, into a family of Spokane greats.
His grandfather, Wesley Stone, was the pharmacist who established Elk Drug Store in 1902, according to Hartley’s obituary written by the family.
His father, Fred Hartley, was a fixture in the Spokane music community in the 1920s and 1930s, even serving as the musical director of the KHQ Studio Parade Orchestra.
So music came naturally to Hartley, who first performed at 6 years old when he sang and played drums for a luncheon at the Davenport Hotel.
He began composing music during his time at North Central High School, but it wasn’t until he began studies at the University of Washington that his first piece, “Gerald’s Sketches for String Orchestra,” was published.
Like many young men at the time, his education was put on pause during World War II. He served in the Coast Guard.
When Hartley returned to UW after the war, with his wife, Harriette, he had some of his most prolific years as a composer, his daughter, Janna Hartley McGlasson, said.
Music surrounded life in the Hartley family, McGlasson said.
When McGlasson was in grade school, the family piano was kept in her bedroom, she said. Her father would compose while she took her naps or after she had gone to bed.
“I can sleep through anything,” McGlasson joked.
Hartley wrote his compositions by hand in India ink, she recalled.
“One of the things that I remember most vividly about him is that he wrote absolutely beautiful manuscripts,” McGlasson said.
“They’re just very attractive.”
After finishing his master’s degree in music, Hartley returned to Spokane and earned a degree in education.
In 1953, he became the Choral Director at Lewis and Clark High School, a job he would treasure for the next 29 years.
Hartley’s classes were always taught at a high level, former student Connie Westover said.
Westover, who graduated from LC in 1967, remembers how gifted Hartley was and how open he was to simply chatting with his students.
“You could go into his room at any moment of the day and you were welcome,” Westover said.
In 1960, Hartley was asked to compose a piece for the Northwest Music Educator National Conference the next year, and he composed “The Builders” from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem by the same name.
”All are architects of fate,
Working in these walls of time …”
The song has been performed at LC graduation ceremonies every year since.
In 1962, Hartley formed the Tiger Tones, a small vocal ensemble that sang at school concerts and community events.
“It was just a great group of like-minded students who enjoyed music and enjoyed blending our voices and enjoyed having fun together,” Westover said.
The group changed throughout the years as students came and went, but it created lifelong connections for many members. In 2007, nearly 70 alumni of the group from across the United States gathered to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Hartley’s retirement from LC, according to a Spokesman-Review column at the time.
“You had his attention if you brought him a problem or you brought him an idea,” Westover said. “He was a gentle giant.”
Hartley wasn’t just a teacher; he took the time to mentor his Tiger Tones members. He attended their community chorus concerts years after they had graduated high school, Westover said.
After retiring from teaching, Hartley became the orchestra director for the Spokane Civic Theatre’s musicals.
Hartley continued composing into the late 1990s, McGlasson said. McGlasson inherited his love of music, spending her career directing musicals, and his grandson Carter McGlasson is known as Fever One in his work as a professional break dancer.
Westover and Hartley remained particularly close. She would call him each year when she went to see the cherry blossoms at UW and walk through Miller Hall.
Just a few weeks ago, she completed the annual tradition. But this time, she took a picture in Hartley’s honor.
A celebration of life is planned for Sept. 18, what would have been Hartley’s 100th birthday, McGlasson said.
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