The Musical Mesicks of Niskayuna – The Daily Gazette

Originally known as the “Vedder Homestead”, the house at 2421 Troy-Schenectady Road is now commonly referred to as the “Mesick House”. Jacob Mesick purchased the property in 1853 and for several generations the farm remained in the Mesick family, with farming being the family’s primary occupation.

However, a different story can be told about the cultivation, not of agricultural produce, but of a love of music, which became particularly prominent in the lives of Jacob’s great-granddaughters, Sara and Elizabeth Mesick.

After Jacob Mesick died in 1861, his son Thomas moved his family, including his son Conrad, from Guilderland to Niskayuna. Thomas had married Anna Barbara Ogsbury in 1843 and according to her 1918 obituary she was “in her early days … a great lover of music and often attended music festivals”. Their son Conrad, Sara and Elizabeth’s father, also appreciated music and he “given his children a complete musical education”.

Sara Mesick was born on July 16, 1886 and at the age of 14 graduated from Union Classical Institute, the secondary school of the city of Schenectady before Schenectady High School opened. Being too young to be accepted into Vassar College, she studied an extra year at the Classical Institute before entering Vassar. She graduated in 1906,

After graduating and deciding to devote her life to music, Sara continued her studies in New York City under the tutelage of Wilbur Greene, founder of the Metropolitan College of Music in New York. He also founded the Summer School of Singing in Brookfield, Connecticut, where Sara taught for several years after returning from studying music in Europe.

In September 1911, Sara and her mother, Julia McChesney Mesick, sailed from New York City to Liverpool on the White Star Line’s ship Celtic to continue her music studies in London and Berlin. They returned in May 1912.

Sara then taught in New York City and at the Brookfield School before making her debut as a professional musician in her hometown in March 1913. Under a Schenectady Gazette Captioned “Miss Sara Mesick Charms Audience,” the assembled friends welcomed the daughter of a local family, praising her voice, which was described as “a beautiful alto” with lower notes “like cello tones.”

For the next five years, Sara maintained a teaching studio at 610 Carnegie Hall, where she became “one of the most well-known younger teachers in New York City.” She also returned to Schenectady for many weeks to teach at the Schenectady Conservatory on Thursdays and Fridays. She also had students in Philadelphia and Reading and spent her summers teaching at Brookfield.

Unfortunately, the beginning of a successful music career was unfortunately cut short. Sara Mesick succumbed to the 1918 flu pandemic at her parents’ home on Troy Road on October 14. She was remembered as someone who “possessed a vibrant magnetic personality”, enjoyed a reputation as “a teaching genius”, blessed with many friends was and believed to be “on the way to fame”.

Sara’s sister Elizabeth was 12 years her junior but followed Sara’s example in many ways. She attended Schenectady High School and graduated from Vassar in 1918. Before graduating, she studied singing under her sister’s tutelage at Carnegie Hall Studio and debuted as a soloist with the Philadelphia Choral Society. After graduation, the sisters toured together before Sara’s death in October. She later studied with Sara’s mentor, Wilbur Greene, replacing her sister as a teacher at the Schenectady Conservatory of Music.

After her marriage to Marcus Youmans, she and her husband toured together in 1920 and 1921. She also appeared in opera as Marguerite, Mimi and Madame Butterfly; Her real strength, however, was on the concert stage. Between September 1922 and February 1923 Elizabeth, like her sister, studied singing in Paris and Berlin, accompanied by her mother Julia.

A son, Peter Noel Youmans, was born in 1927 and family commitments seem to have limited Elizabeth’s musical career. In 1932 her father became quite ill; he died in 1933. Elizabeth and Marcus moved back to Niskayuna and took over management of the Mesick family farm. She continued to teach music from her home at Stop 13 Troy Road, but traveling to concerts was over. In 1943 she died “at home”, leaving behind her husband Marcus and their three children Peter, Mark and Serena.

Elizabeth and Sara shared one last thing: each died where they were born. From the start, home and family had nurtured her talent and supported her career, and finally welcomed her back. May we all be so lucky.

Author’s Note: We encourage all residents of the city, past or present, to contact Niskayuna City Historian Denis Brennan [email protected] regarding any information, resource or story you would like to share about Niskayuna’s distinctive history.

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Categories: News, Opinion, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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