CALDWELL — Her music has soared and comforted from the rafters of Jewett Auditorium to the pews of Caldwell United Methodist Church, where she was organist for more than a half century. Barbara Attebery has lifted the spirits of a congregation and inspired hundreds of aspiring young musicians with her talent and her passion for music, performed on piano and organ.
Former student Laura Jacquet is just one example of the influence Attebery has had on the Caldwell community and beyond. Laura’s father, Bill Jacquet, choir director at Caldwell United Methodist, said his daughter aspires to be the next Barbara Attebery.
“Barbara taught Laura both piano and organ and now she is a music student at the University of Montana, majoring in organ with a minor in piano,” Bill Jacquet said. “Laura thinks of her as another grandmother and our entire family cherishes our relationship with Barbara. She puts everything into her music and there is never any ego involved.”
Attebery taught Laura Jacquet for eight years, from the fourth grade through high school, and has mentored hundreds of student musicians over the years.
Bill Jacquet also praised Attebery for her musical contributions to the church.
“The first thing I’d like to say is she is a delight to work with,” Jacquet said. “She was always willing to do any style of music I put before her as an accompanist and pianist in our contemporary service.”
“Music ... teaching and performing is such a satisfying experience for her (Barbara),” her husband Louie Attebery said. “She can be tired and droopy, but when she comes in to start a lesson of play she’s feeling good again. She’s nice to be around when she’s teaching and playing.”
Barbara Attebery admitted it was difficult to say what she enjoys most: performance or teaching.
“Music has always been a huge part of my life,” Barbara said. “Teaching young people is something I’ve always enjoyed. I’ve enjoyed the children coming in. Some didn’t work for me, but others were wonderful and such good workers.”
Attebery began her formal study of piano as a young girl growing up in Payette and attended The College of Idaho in the mid-1940s, studying under renowned instructor Professor Frederick Fleming Beale, specializing in piano performance. She added organ studies in her senior year. After graduation, Attebery returned to Payette to begin a career teaching piano and to marry Louie on New Year’s Eve 1947.
A short time after Beale died, Barbara was offered the position as organist at Caldwell United Methodist.
The couple moved several times in the 1950s, landing in Missoula, Mont., back in Payette and in Denver, where Louie Attebery completed his doctorate studies. Barbara Attebery was organist at Lakewood Congregational Church in Denver, but in 1961, the family returned to its native haunts when Louie took a position in the English department at The College of Idaho.
Barbara Attebery once again became organist at Caldwell United Methodist in 1965, a position she held until her retirement last summer. All told, she has led the musical expression of praise and worship in Idaho, Montana and Colorado for more than 56 years, 49 of those at the console that she took her first lessons.
“Barbara is a fine musician and delights in practicing,” longtime friend and fellow organist/pianist Sylvia Hunt said. “I have to work to keep up with her. I always say, ‘I talk and she practices for both of us.’”
The two women have performed piano duet concerts for nearly 30 years at The College of Idaho. Attebery also served as accompanist for The C of I choir and for student senior recitals for many years.
For the thousands who have heard Barbara Attebery perform or been fortunate to be mentored by her, the experience has been music to their ears.