A Brief History of the National Federation of Music Clubs
by Mildred M. Casey
This brief history of the National Federation of Music Clubs is dedicated to all who participated in the fulfillment of a dream of Past National President, Mrs. Maurice Honigman — that there be a Federation home placed in the central part of our country — easily accessible to all members. Therefore, this history is dedicated to her and to the past national presidents following her administration, who worked not only to secure funding, but also in the planning and administration of these funds.
In 1893, Dr. Theodore Thomas, Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was chosen to head the musical segment of the World’s Columbian Exposition. His wife, Rose Fay, thought up the idea of inviting women’s amateur musical clubs throughout the nation to participate in this World’s Fair Congress of Musicians. Forty-two clubs responded by sending delegates to the four day festival. From this idea and its triumphant success, the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) came into being. In June, 1897, a temporary committee was formed and invitations were sent to “all members of music clubs and friends interested in organizing a National Federation of Music Clubs.”
The first president elected was Mrs. Edwin T. Uhl of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Nineteen members constituted the Board of Directors. Mrs. Chandler Starr (Blanche Ellis Starr) Rockford, Illinois, first vice president; Fannie P. Warren; and Anna S. Pederson signed an application for a charter. The State of Illinois granted the Charter with the Certificate of Incorporation. A small brochure setting forth the aims of the newly organized federation and names of the Board of Management was sent to music clubs with an invitation to become members. The first Biennial Convention was held in St. Louis. At this convention the Federation emblem, designed by Mrs. John Leverett, of Alton, Illinois, was adopted. The sale of the first pin was announced at the second Biennial Convention in Cleveland, in 1901. Support of American Music, Composers and Artists was made the keystone of the organization. On October, 1899, the Constitution and By-laws were adopted and Mrs. Theodore Thomas was made honorary president.
Mrs. Curtis Webster, Cleveland, Ohio, was the second president. She served from 1901-1903. Two notable accomplishments were recorded: the first Junior Music Club, sponsored by the Beethoven Club of Memphis, Tennessee, joined the NFMC; and International Music Relations was stressed.
Mrs. Winifred B. Collins, Akron, Ohio was the third president. Many clubs — one hundred twenty-five in all — were brought into the Federation during her term of office, 1903-1905. An amendment to the Certificate of Incorporation changed Article II so that men could be admitted as members. Another innovation was the beginning of the Artist Bureau.
Mrs. Russell Ripley Dorr of Minnesota was elected fourth president, but after holding office three weeks she resigned in order to devote full time to the development of the NFMC Artist Bureau.
Mrs. Julius Eugene Kinney, Denver, Colorado, was the fifth president (1905-1907). She was elected by mail ballot following the resignation of Mrs. Dorr. Mrs. Kinney was one of two presidents to serve three two-year terms.
Mrs. Charles B. Kelsey, of Grand Rapids, Michigan was elected sixth president (1907-1911) in Memphis, Tennessee. During her term of office the first American Music Committee was formed. In 1909 the first American Composition Award was given.
In 1911, Mrs. Julius Eugene Kinney was elected a second time. She served as the seventh president of the NFMC. She is recognized for having the Endowment Fund established. Young Artist Contests were begun in Districts. Horatio Parker, an American composer, was awarded $10,000 for his opera in English, “Fairyland.” It was performed at the Los Angeles Biennial Convention in 1915.
Mrs. Albert J. Ochsner, Chicago, Illinois, was the eighth president (1915-1919). She was the first president of serve during war years. NFMC contributed to recreation in camps and service clubs of soldiers and sailors through musical programs, records, and phonographs. Community sings and sings in industrial plants were also sponsored by the organization. The first Life Member was enrolled in 1916 and individual State Federations were organized — Wisconsin was first and twenty states followed. The MacDowell League was formed, bringing many MacDowell Clubs into the Federation. Substantial sums were raised for the MacDowell Colony. In 1919 permanent amphitheater seats were built and presented to the Colony at the Biennial Convention in Peterborough, New Hampshire, a gift from the Federation.
Mrs. Frank A Seiberling, Akron, Ohio, was the ninth president, serving from her installation at Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1919 until 1921. A new department was established — a Junior Department — and Grace Porterfield Polk of Florida was the first National Junior Counselor. Twenty-one new State Federations were affiliated with the NFMC; district presidents increased to fifteen and member clubs grew from 400 to 1,000. The Seiberling home, famed Stan Hywet Hall, was the scene of many National Board Meetings over the period of three administrations.
The tenth president of the National Federation was Mrs. John F. Lyons, of Texas (1921-1925). During her administration amendments to the Certificate of Incorporation were granted, changing the name of the organization from National Federation of Musical Clubs to National Federation of Music Clubs. At the Biennial Convention in Ashville, North Carolina, the Past Presidents Assembly (PPA) was founded. There were 123 members who signed the Charter and PPA pledged to donate at least $1500 annually to the Federation. The first National Music Week was endorsed and observed in 1924.
The eleventh president was Mrs. Edgar Stillman Kelley of Oxford, Ohio (1925-1929). She devoted much thought and energy to the Junior Division. The official Federation Hymn was sung for the first time in Chicago at the Biennial Convention. The words were by Irena Foreman Williams and the melody, Vigili et Sancti from the Cologne Tune Book (1623), was arranged by Peter C. Lutkin. National Directories were published for the first time.
Mrs. Elmer James Ottoway, of Port Huron, Michigan, served the Federation as the twelfth president from 1929-1933. She is noted for having combined all three official magazines into one magazine, calling it “Music Clubs Magazine.”
The thirteenth president of the NFMC was Mrs. John Alexander Jardine of Fargo, North Dakota. Her term of office was 1933-1937. During her administration the Student Division was created.
Mrs. Vivian Hillis Ober (Julia Fuqua Ober), Norfolk, Virginia, was elected the fourteenth president and served from 1937-1941. In 1935 all missing State Federations were organized to complete the entire Roster of NFMC. In honor of the noted educator and his wife, the Edgar Stillman Kelley Scholarship for talented Juniors was established. The first auditions were held and the winner was David Smith, pianist. A new Constitution and By-laws was written. A major and lasting achievement of Mrs. Ober’s administration was the formation of the National Music Council, the outgrowth of a meeting called by her. As founder and charter member of the group, she was named Vice President, and by tradition, succeeding NFMC presidents have held this office in the Council.
Mrs. Guy Patterson Gannett of Portland, Maine, was elected fifteenth president in 1941 and due to war became the second president to serve three two-year terms. War Service Committee’s work consisted of raising over $100,000 and distributing more than 2,500,000 articles of musical equipment, records, and music to American Armed Forces at home and abroad, and of equipping hospital ships and trains with musical units, records, and phonographs. Regional conferences were held instead of holding a national convention because of war conditions. The first Federation Weekend was started at Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, by Mrs. Charles Pascoe in 1944. Music in Hospitals was established; Ruth Bradley was the first chairman and Ada Holding Miller was the second. In 1946 the first Student Musicians Contest was held; the Foundation for the Advancement of Music was established with the $10,000 left over from the War Service Fund as a basis to provide scholarships. The Anne Gannett Fund, for talented veterans, was placed in the Foundation. New by-laws were written and accepted, and dues were raised from 20 cents to 50 cents per capita. The three Regions were expanded to four during this administration, dividing the Eastern Region into the Northeastern and Southeastern Regions.
The sixteenth president of NFMC was Mrs. Royden James Keith, who presided form 1947 to 1951. Mrs. Keith had the National Headquarters Office changed from Ithaca, New York, to New York City where it was easier to concentrate on the business of the Federation. The Hymn of the Month was inaugurated. A Citations Committee was established and the first NFMC Citation was given to the Standard Oil Company of California, recognizing the fine quality of music programs broadcast to school children. The first President’s Citation was given to Philip Maxwell, Chicago, Illinois, in recognition of his instituting the Chicagoland Music Festival, and his promotion of musically talented youth. The first Music Therapy Scholarship was awarded to Alan Toedter, Salt Lake City, The first Coordinator of Department Activities was Mrs. Ronald A. Dougan, who compiled and edited the first State President’s Manual. Mrs. Maurice Honigman, Extension Chairman, noted that 1175 new and reinstated clubs were added. The Cradle Roll was inaugurated as a membership classification.
Mrs. Ada Holding Miller, Rhode Island, (1951-1955), was elected the seventeenth president of the NFMC in 1951. Through an initial gift of $10,000 from the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers, the President’s Promotion Fund was established. In 1952 the Young Composers’ Contest Award was raised from $300 to $500; a Student Division Handbook was published; and the Marie Morrisey Keith Scholarship in the Student Division was created. The first Summer Scholarship Committee was appointed and annual financial support was given to: the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York; the National Music Camp, Interlochen, Michigan; and the Transylvania Music Camp, Brevard, North Carolina. In 1954, summer scholarships for the Berkshire and Aspen Music Centers were added. A nationwide “birthday gift” drive for Mrs. Edward MacDowell, designated for the upkeep of the Colony, raised $40,000. In 1954, travel expenses were paid for a young composer from each region in NFMC to a Contemporary Music Congress at Pittsburgh. In 1953 at the Biennial Convention in New York, a performance of “Carmen” at the Metropolitan was sponsored as a benefit for the Young Artist Reserve Fund; the first “Celebrities Luncheon” was scheduled; and daily programs of American Music were presented by leading artists. The major interest of this president was the Parade of American Music, and she will be remembered for her support of this cause.
The eighteenth president of NFMC, Mrs. Ronald A. Dougan of Beloit, Wisconsin, was elected in 1955 and served four years. During her term of office her major accomplishment was the creation of the Crusade for Strings to counteract the dearth of strings in the United States. NFMC co-sponsored National Music Week with the National Music Council for one year and then assumed the sole responsibility. The Parade of American Music had become so successful that it was established as an annual event with February designated as American Music Month. Mrs. Dougan programmed educational workshops featuring brochures on orientation, evaluation leadership training and publicity. She published, with the American Music Committee, pamphlets cataloging scores of American composers and their works, and model programs. Peter Mennin was commissioned to compose his “Canto for Orchestra,” which was performed at the Biennial Convention in Columbus in 1957. “Classical Jam Session,” presented in 1959, was the result of a commission granted by her to Lucas Foss. Many press conferences and legislative drives for the passage of the Juke Box Bill were priorities for this president. She appeared in Washington repeatedly with ASCAP testifying to this end. She also testified for five other important musical bills, including the granting of a Congressional Charter for the National Musical Council. During Mrs. Dougan’s administration the NFMC Observer to the United Nations was raised to Representative — the only musical organization so accredited. She also was named to and participated on the Executive Board of the Music Advisory Committee of President Dwight Eisenhower’s People-to-People program. Mrs. Dougan is recognized for raising the Opera Committee to a full Department with Grass Roots and Folk Opera; she originated the Scholarship Board; and Artist Presentation Chairman was selected; a chaplain was appointed; she presented Young Artist Winners in concert at conventions; she had NFMC minutes placed on film. During her administration dues were raised.
(1959-1963) The nineteenth president was Mrs. C. Arthur Bullock, Canton Pennsylvania (since 1980, Dr. Dorothy Dann Bullock, Glendale, California). In accordance with her objective of “A Greater Musical America,” she organized and directed growth of the Federation to harmonize with international scientific developments. Early in Dr. Bullock’s administration the NFMC Headquarters Office was moved from New York to Chicago to be a more central location for better service. The move necessitated a change of personnel and the addition of several departments and committees. The Northeastern Region erected a new music building at Chautauqua Institution providing annual scholarships from rentals. Summer Centers having Federation Days increased their scholarships to 18. As a promoter of American Music, Dr. Bullock was involved in helping to establish the national center, “Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.” She was appointed a member of the Advisory Committee for the Arts by President Kennedy. Young Artist Awards were increased to $1,500, and an oratorio category was added. Citations and honorary memberships for past national presidents were established. Hymn of the Month booklets were published for the first time. Scholarships and Awards honoring Past National Presidents were begun. An annual project supported by ASCAP, a program of monetary awards to educational institutions in three classifications for the performance of American music, has been administered by the NFMC since its inception in 1962. A commissioned symphonic work, dedicated to the United Nations, “Peaceful Land,” by William Grant Still, was premiered by the Miami University Orchestra in October 1962. The Young Artist Presentation Service and Opera For Schools were begun. Significant International recognition was given NFMC by its achieving accreditation to the UN and the Voice of America. Dr. Bullock was appointed by President Nixon to be a member of the US delegation to the UNESCO Conference in Paris. She promoted music for human welfare, music therapy, and music service in hospitals, and achieved accreditation by the Veterans Administration. The President, Dr. Bullock, effected over 20 “firsts” and was accorded many honors for her distinguished service to the musical life of the nation and service to humanity. Her honors included two annual NFMC Music Therapy Scholarships in her name, three honorary doctorates and two state university citations.
Mrs. Clifton J. Muir, Coral Gables Florida, was elected the twentieth president of the NFMC in Pittsburgh in 1963, and re-elected at the Biennial Convention in Miami Beach, Florida, in 1965. Her major emphases were “Music for All Youth,” and “Music is for Everyone.” Official gold cups, an optional plan in the Junior Festivals, were made available at NFMC Headquarters. Louis Sudler, Harry Salter, and Lawrence Welk made significant contributions to the NFMC Young Artist Fund. Adult Non-Professional Composers Contest was inaugurated. Mrs. Muir represented NFMC at the Ground-breaking Ceremonies of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. NFMC contributed $7,010 toward the Center. The first edition of Who’s Who in NFMC was published. A bronze bust of Edward MacDowell was installed in the Hall of Fame at New York University, the presentation being made by Mrs. Muir. Substantial gifts from ASCAP and BMI assisted in the promotion of American Music and the observance of National Music Week. The 34th Biennial Convention in New York (1967) was saddened by the serious illness of the National President. The first Vice President, Mrs. Maurice Honigman presided in her absence. Mrs. Muir’s death occurred early in 1968.
(1967-1971) Mrs. Maurice Honigman was elected the twenty-first president of the NFMC. Mrs. Honigman established the first International Exchange Awards program with England and Spain, each recipient being presented a $2,000 award. The first American Women’s Composer Chairman was appointed and the first Directory of American Women Composers was published. Music for the Blind was created with scholarships and cash awards given for performance and for composing in all three divisions. A new segment, “Improvisations” was added to the Junior Division, with Sylvia Rabinof as chairman. “Invocation” by Julia Smith and “Bless us, O God” by Glad Robinson Youse were adopted as the official NFMC Invocation and Benediction. At her first Board Meeting, President Honigman announced her two great dreams and received Board approval for their pursuit: to make a nationwide effort to secure a Congressional Charter for NFMC, and to carry out her prayerful hope to be able to raise funds to erect or purchase a Headquarters Building or Home for the organization. Land was offered NFMC by the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) and an invitation to join them in erecting a building at Wolf Trap Farm outside Washington, D.C. Official ground-breaking ceremonies for this were held in October, 1970, with one of the functions being a brilliant concert by NFMC Artist Winners, presented in the East Room of the White House. Mrs. Richard Nixon attended and was the gracious hostess at a reception in the State Dining Room following the concert. When ASOL was unable to raise funds with which to erect its portion of the joint project, it became obvious that other arrangements had to be made. Following several years of searching for a suitable location and home to be the headquarters of the organization, the Eden-Talbott House, 1336 North Delaware, Indianapolis, Indiana, was purchased for this purpose.
An historic undertaking and one never before attempted by NFMC was the gigantic effort put forth by the President to seek a Congressional Charter for NFMC. Mrs. Honigman made a special trip to Washington to confer with Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr. who agreed to compose and introduce the bill in the Senate. President Honigman served as first and only chairman being reelected by the Board of Directors at each Biennial Convention until the Charter was finally passed and signed by President Reagan 14 years later. The following Citation was presented to Mrs. Honigman: “In deep appreciation and admiration for a lifetime of dedication to music and musicians of all ages, the Board of Directors of the American Symphony League elects Hinda Honigman Honorary Lifetime Board Member this 16th day of June 1981 — National Conference, Dallas, Texas.” This special recognition is the first and only one of its kind ever presented in the history of the American Symphony Orchestra League.
The twenty-second president of the National Federation of Music Clubs was Dr. Merle Montgomery, New York. She was elected in 1971 and served a four year term. Dr. Montgomery wrote the following assessment of her administration. “During her administration the Federation celebrated a Diamond Jubilee in Atlantic City. All national projects already in force were continued. Among the new projects during her regime were:
* The People-to-People trip to Belgium, England, Russia and France, the first ever scheduled by musicians;
* The trip to Israel, Cyprus, and Greece which sponsored the first Federation group to give concerts in a foreign land;
* The first National Federation of Music Club artist to tour Africa under U.S. State Department auspices;
* The three Tully Hall Concerts that presented two Artist Winners — Claudette Sorel and Ida Krehm — and a foreign artist — Philip Cho, the latter for the benefit of NFMC International Activities.
American Music sponsorship included the purchase of 2,000 records featuring American composers and sending them to 72 radio stations for broadcasting, and the completion of plans for the Bicentennial Parade of American Music, which included 52 concerts at the Kennedy Center (one from each state, 2 from the District of Columbia), a 13 week series of radio programs featuring state composers in every state, and the placing of bronze plaques honoring American Musicians who have made significant contributions to our country. NFMC won its first Freedom Foundation Medal, helped to put John Philip Sousa into the Hall of Fame; presented Van Cliburn in concert; held a benefit for one Past National President’s Fund and suggested that the endowment for each of the living Past National Presidents should be completed during her lifetime. When the four years were over, the President had been in each of the 50 states, had toured the N.E. Region and had gone to the Bahamas and Hawaii with the Southeastern Region, in addition to the foreign missions She had also attended each meeting of the National Music Council and had written thousands of notes from sea to shining sea. Best of all, perhaps, membership had increased!”
(1975-1979) NFMC’s twenty-third president was Mrs. Frank A Vought of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was elected at the 1975 Biennial in Atlanta, Georgia, reelected in 1977 and finished her term of office as president, in Portland, Oregon, 1979. Coinciding with the close of U.S.A. Second Century and the beginning of its third, her administration highlights include:
* THe participation of a nationwide “Bicentennial Parade of American Music” (1975-1976) administered by NFMC;
* The sponsoring at Columbia University, New York, of a concert featuring distinguished women composers, conductors, performers, and University Orchestra;
* The Hunter College Playhouse presentation of one act operas by women composers (These operas were presented by professional casts and the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra. The were given on two consecutive dates, open to the public without charge, and one performance was especially for youth. The New York critics acclaimed this program of opera as a “landmark event, a historic innovation.”);
* The completion of endowment for scholarships honoring three past national presidents;
* The receiving of donations and legacies for new scholarships and awards (New legacies and gifts totaled over $160,500 — Agnes Fowler from Ohio left a legacy of $130,000 a second Irene S. Muir Scholarship was given in voice for $1,000, thus providing one each in man’s and woman’s voice; a Thor Johnson Award was created in chamber music; a Josef Kaspar Scholarship in violin was made possible by a contribution from a former student of his, and given in his honor; two special scholarships for the blind were given — one named for Paul W. Bensinger, and one in memory of Dr. Robert E. Menees, 1979);
* At Mrs. Vought’s recommendation, the NFMC Young Artist Winners Awards were raised to $5,000 (effective at the 1981 Auditions), the result of an Agnes Fowler Supplementary Award. In the closing months of this administration, climaxing a ten year fund raising program, NFMC purchased historic Eden-Talbott House, Indianapolis, Indiana to become the permanent National Headquarters. In Indianapolis, Jan. 5, 1979, President Vought signed the legal purchase agreement, and made the initial payment. On April 26, 1979 after Board and Convention action, she forwarded the cash payment for the property. Transfer of ownership occurred early in the new administration.
(1979-1983) Mrs. Jack Christopher Ward, Greenville, South Carolina, was elected twenty-fourth president of the National Federation of Music Clubs in Portland, Oregon, and reelected April 25, 1981, in Birmingham, Alabama. Her theme, “Serving Mankind Through Music,” and “When You Give of Yourself” by Stanley Adams, her theme song (a first for NFMC presidents) have best portrayed this administration. Two weeks after her election, on May 15, 1979, the Eden-Talbott Mansion in Indianapolis, Indiana, was deeded to NFMC. Restoration began that year, and on October 19, 1980, the mansion was formally dedicated as the Headquarters of the National Federation of Music Clubs. A Headquarters Endowment Fund, established in 1981 for permanent maintenance of the building, reached more than $152,000 by the end of the administration. On August 9, 1982, President Reagan signed Public Law #97231 granting a Federal Charter to the National Federation of Music Clubs. It thus became the third music organization in America so honored. Two American compositions were commissioned: “Prelude and Dance,” Opus 120, a piano duo by Paul Creston, was world premiered in 1983 at the Columbus, Ohio Biennial; and a piano concerto, to be composed by John LaMontaine, with the date of world premiere, and the performing orchestra to be announced upon completion of the concerto. Gary Steigerwald, pianist, has been commissioned to perform with the premiering orchestra. Twelve new awards and scholarships were endowed during this administration. Mr. Louis Sudler, Chicago, Illinois, was elected to honorary membership in National Federation of Music Clubs. Young Artist Awards were increased from $3,000 to $5,000, the larger award being given for the first time at the 1981 Birmingham Alabama Biennial. A careful administration and sound investments enabled this administration to close with a total cash increase of almost one-half million dollars.
Mrs. Dwight D. Robinson, the twenty-fifth president of NFMC, was elected in 1983 in Columbus, Ohio, and reelected for a second term in Wichita, Kansas, 1985. Mrs Robinson has used as her theme, “Looking to the Future, Our Talented Youth.”
In reviewing the past history of the organization and the projects and activities of its wonderful past national presidents that have made their tenures of office successful, its present members “look to the future” with zeal and determination to follow their lead that they may “make America truly musical” through their beloved National Federation of Music Clubs.n in America so honored. Two American compositions were commissioned: “Prelude and Dance,” Opus 120, a piano duo by Paul Creston, was world premiered in 1983 at the Columbus, Ohio Biennial; and a piano concerto, to be composed by John LaMontaine, with the date of world premiere, and the performing orchestra to be announced upon completion of the concerto. Gary Steigerwald, pianist, has been commissioned to perform with the premiering orchestra. Twelve new awards and scholarships were endowed during this administration. Mr. Louis Sudler, Chicago, Illinois, was elected to honorary membership in National Federation of Music Clubs. Young Artist Awards were increased from $3,000 to $5,000, the larger award being given for the first time at the 1981 Birmingham Alabama Biennial. A careful administration and sound investments enabled this administration to close with a total cash increase of almost one-half million dollars.