by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Today’s “Striking a Chord” entry on greater Los Angeles era music is a striking photograph by Miles F. Weaver of the summer class of the Earl and Olive Valentine Studio of Music and Art in Los Angeles for the 1927-28 year. The husband-and-wife proprietors stand at the center of the first of five rows of students, who appear to range from about third grade through high school age.
The group stood in front of and on a large stage with a curtained backdrop, on which at the center is a lyre-shaped sign reading “Summer Class / Earl and Olive Valentine Studios” The girls generally sport sleeveless “flapper” dresses and Marcel weave hair styles, while the boys, who are a decided minority in the groups, wear suits (mostly double breasted) and ties.
The school’s founders were Earl B. Valentine and Dorothy Olive Clark. She was born in 1890 in Ketchum, Idaho, while he was a decade older and hailed from San Antonio, Texas, where his father, Louis, operated a music store and his mother Emily Chapman (a native of Boston) was a pianist and music teacher. In 1882, the Valentines moved to Los Angeles and opened a store focusing on sheet music, instruments and like material, but Louis died very shortly after arrival. His widow then formed the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Art, one of the first of its kind in the city.
The Conservatory was a success and Emily also taught music at the Los Angeles Normal School, a teacher training college situated where the Central Public Library now stands and which morphed into U.C.L.A. She made sure her children were all well schooled in music and Earl, the youngest, became an excellent violinist.
He achieved some renown locally and performed in concerts all around the city, conducted church (Methodist Episcopal) and other orchestras, and was a student and then teacher at his mother’s music school. Earl was often mentioned in newspaper articles for his performances and conducting, including overseeing the orchestra of the first Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. He married and had three daughters, but a divorce took place in the 1910s.
At the beginning of the decade, Emily Valentine died and Earl, a sister and others incorporated the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Art in 1912. Within a few years, however, Earl left the conservatory and moved to to Seattle, working on repairs of electric cars for the Puget Sound Light and Power Company. While there, he married Olive, who was also a music teacher and a department store stenographer.
By 1920, the couple moved to Los Angeles and then opened the Valentine studio. While there is plenty of information available on the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Art, which, in 1961, was merged with the Chouinard Art Institute by Walt Disney to form the California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts, in Santa Clarita, little has been located on the Valentine studio.
The business appears to have lasted into the 1930s, but perhaps the Depression or ill health forced a closure and Valentine spent part of his later years living with a brother in Venice. He died in April 1938 and appears to have lived in the Highland Park area at the time.
The story of the Valentine family is an interesting one with respect to their arrival in Los Angeles just prior to the famed Boom of the 1880s and as the “serious arts” were beginning to get more attention in the growing city. By the time the photo was taken, Los Angeles was a major metropolis with an active musical and artistic scene. That environment included a half-century in which Earl Valentine and his pioneering mother, Emily, worked as among the city’s musical elite.