President Howard W. Hunter's mother, Nellie Marie Rasmussen Hunter, said that from the time President Hunter was a baby, he always kept perfect time to music. And his sister, Dorothy Hunter Rasmussen, said he had a beautiful voice and perfect pitch.

Those pronouncements became important motifs in his life.With his mother's encouragement, he started learning the piano about age 6. Later, he took up the violin, drums, clarinet and saxophone.

His introduction as a musical performer came as the result of a Boise music store contest during his second year in high school.

In the Sampson Music Co. sales contest, purchasers could receive one point for every dollar spent and could designate which contestant would receive the points.

As a result, President Hunter encouraged his friends and acquaintances to shop at Sampson's, and the points credited to him gave him the second-place prize - a marimba.

Soon, he had taught himself to play it well enough to perform at school, church and other programs, then as part of a dance orchestra.

"Most orchestras were not large enough to have a marimba player unless he doubled on other instruments," he said. "So, I commenced to play drums as well. As I played more and more on a professional basis, I started to play saxophone and clarinet and later added the trumpet."

He also played the piano and the violin.

In the fall of 1924, after playing in several orchestras, President Hunter organized his own group, Hunter's Croonaders. That November and December, the group played for six dances. The next year, they had 53 engagements, mostly in the Boise area.

Although cutting back on his music activities during his senior year - his main goals were completing high school and saving money for college - he received an opportunity for what was then the trip of a lifetime.

Toward the end of the year, he was offered a contract to provide a five-piece orchestra for a two-month cruise to the Orient on the SS President Jackson. The group would play classical music at dinner, background music for on-board movies and music for dinner and ballroom dancing.

He selected a piano player, a tenor saxophone and clarinet player, a trumpet player and a violin and banjo player, each of whom could also play other instruments.

After a train trip to Seattle, President Hunter went sightseeing and made arrangements to enroll at the University of Washington, whose campus and buildings impressed him.

The orchestra's westward voyage across the Pacific came during midwinter. The sea was rough the first part of the journey but became calmer once the ship passed the 180th meridian. The group then played for the Meridian Costume Ball and dinner, the beginning of a full schedule of programs, parties, movies and other activities.

President Hunter also made the most of sightseeing opportunities when the ship was in port - Yokohama and Tokyo, Kobe, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila. He even visited the Great Wall of China.

At sea, the band followed a busy schedule aboard ship and on at least two occasions played on shore.

Most passengers on the return trip were American missionaries who were being evacuated from China because of war. As a result, there was less participation in dancing and other activities, but the missionaries' presence guaranteed a large presence at religious services. And when the Croonaders played classical music at dinners, the missionaries stayed late and listened and "were generous with their applause," he wrote in his journal.

The group had an unusual welcoming party when the ship docked at Seattle - police officers with arrest warrants. The members learned they were prime suspects in a Boise burglary in which musical instruments were stolen. But officers soon learned that the group had left Boise before the burglary occurred.

One other significant event occurred during the Orient trip. President Hunter's father was baptized into the LDS Church.

After arriving home, President Hunter worked at a variety of jobs, and that summer his orchestra played for numerous events in the Boise area. In the fall, the group played for supper dances at the Idaho Country Club and later for other dances in the area.

Meanwhile, one of the Croonaders, Bruce Salisbury, had moved to California and invited President Hunter to visit. The two also visited the Croonaders' saxophonist. President Hunter liked the area so much he decided to stay.

After the move, he found work in a bank and supplemented his income by playing for orchestras and on radio programs.

However, President Hunter said he had never planned to spend his life as a professional musician. And as the date approached for his marriage to Clara May Jeffs, he decided that a musician's uncertain employment and odd hours would not permit the family life he wanted.

So, on the Saturday before he and Clara were married, President Hunter played his last professional engagement and packed away his instruments.

"Since that night," he said, "I have never touched my musical instruments, except on a few occasions, when the children were home and we sang Christmas carols and I accompanied on the clarinet. Although this left a void of something I enjoyed, the decision has never been regretted," he said in his biography.

Still, he sometimes would sit down at the piano and play popular songs from his dance-band days. And sometimes during gatherings at friends' homes, someone would bring out a clarinet and say, "Here, try this."