It all began on Oct. 15, 1888, when a group of women gathered at the home of Mrs. E. Morgan Wood in hopes of forming a new club “to develop the musical talent of members and to stimulate musical culture in Dayton.”
Much has changed over the past 125 years: what began as The Mozart Club is now known as the Dayton Music Club and today’s membership roster includes both men and women. But the group’s overall objectives have remained constant through the decades.
“Our common bond is a love of music,” says Norma Jean Hendricks, who began singing at David’s Church in Kettering at the age of three and is chairing the organization’s upcoming 125th celebration. She’s also authored a booklet of the group’s historical highlights that will be a gift to those who attend the special night.
The anniversary dinner, slated for Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Dayton Woman’s Club, is open to the public. It will be emceed by pianist Don Hageman and will feature a performance by guitarist Jim McCutcheon.
The event was scheduled at an early hour, explains Hendricks, so that attendees can “stroll down the street after dinner” to attend the Signature opening event of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance.
Free monthly concerts
The Dayton Music Club is perhaps best known for its free monthly noon-time musicales, typically held at churches throughout the area and open to all. In honor of this anniversary year, 2013-14 programming has been expanded to include out-of-town and nonmember musicians.
The club has two levels of membership.
“You can audition and be a member who performs, or you can be a member and listen to all the marvelous music,” Hendricks explains. She says the organization, which at one time had 400 members, currently has 144.
Behind-the-scenes, the group has always provided scholarships and performance opportunities to deserving students.
Hageman will host
Hageman, a former concertmaster for the Dayton Art Institute’s concert series and the founder/manager of the popular Soirees Musicales Piano Series for 40 years, is the ideal emcee for the anniversary. He’s had a connection to the Dayton Music Club since childhood.
Hageman says all the members of the DMC past and present were — and are — very special human beings.
“The organization itself, has been one of the most valuable in our community for 125 years,” he says.
Hageman remembers when — at the age of 12 — his music teacher encouraged him to join the Dayton Boys’ Music Club which was sponsored by the DMC. It also sponsored a similar club for girls as well as The Dayton Music Club Chorus which performed for nearly a century.
The association was life-changing for Hageman.
“That was my first chance to associate with others outside my own farm community who were interested in music,” he recalls, adding that the young members at the time met at the Dayton Art Institute or in the elegant homes of affluent members.
“We were given numerous performance opportunities and I remember playing several times in the beautiful home of Mrs. Jefferson Walters,” he says, adding that he never understood why he was required to enter from the kitchen entrance rather than the front door with everyone else.”Times were much different then.”
Wanda Harris, a fourth-generation Daytonian, also remembers “different times” when it comes to the club. Although she had graduated from Northwestern University in 1950 with a bachelor of music degree and had been recommended by the wife of Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra conductor, Paul Katz, she was turned down for membership.
“Phyllis resigned her own membership in protest when I was denied,” says Harris, who says exclusions based on race were commonplace at that time.
“They were painful to those of us who experienced them,” she says. “As attitudes gradually changed both locally and nationally, I was later accepted for membership.”
Since that time, she adds, her experiences with the club have been nothing but rewarding.
“I have been blessed with wonderful associations, friendships and musical collaborations with fellow members,” Harris says. “Some of my fondest memories are of the Christmas Musicales, featuring Music Club members.”
As a result of his association with the Dayton Music Club, Hageman also got the chance to appear in regional Junior Music Festivals.
“I find the support and encouragement of young people one of the DMC’s most admirable missions,” he says, explaining that locally the group provides scholarships to numerous young musicians every year. “The state, regional and national organization of the Federation of Music Clubs, of which the DMC is affiliated, is major force in the nation’s music scene, sponsoring a national competition, and other services.”
Hageman says his other major reason for supporting the DMC is his belief and commitment to live performance.
“For those of us who are driven to take an active part in music making, the DMC and like organizations — such as Dayton Chamber Music Society and Miami Valley Symphony — provide a valuable venue,” he says.
Violinist Rachel Cox will never forget the year 1976 when her family was named the Ohio Musical Family. All six of the Cox children studied music at renowned collegiate institutions and all enjoyed careers as professional musicians.
Cox, who now lives in Florida, credits the Dayton Music Club with providing a nurturing environment for her developing careers. Now, as an established professional, she says she continues to treasure every performance with the Dayton Music Club.
“I experience a magical sensation returning to Dayton and feeling the same supportive atmosphere, which also fosters the highest expectations for its performers,” she says. “The Dayton Music Club is a priceless institution in the cultural landscape of the Miami Valley, which will be cherished by performers and audiences alike for generations to come.”
How To Go:
What: The Dayton Music Club’s 125th Anniversary Celebration Dinner
When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21
Where: Dayton Woman’s Club, 225 N. Ludlow St., Dayton
Featuring: Guitarist Jim McCutcheon, MC Don Hageman, and a presentation on the Past, Present and Future of the Club.
Tickets: $40 for one person, $70 for two, and $30 for each additional dinner. The admission price includes a history booklet.
For reservations: Contact Kay Nelson, (937) 298-3165. Deadline is Sept. 17.
ALSO: The October musicale sponsored by the Dayton Music Club is scheduled for noon on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Christ Episcopal Church, 20 W. First St. in downtown Dayton. The free concert will feature pianist Richard Bobo, singers Alice Hotopp, Tamra Francis, David Sievers and Amy Houck and organist Judy Bede. No reservations are necessary.
Our Milestones pay tribute to a variety of organizations in the community that have reached a significant anniversary year. If you know of a group that should be recognized, please send details to Meredith Moss:MMoss@coxohio.com
Please include a daytime phone number.