History Of NFMC/WFMCContributed by Berenice Briski, Past WFMC President
In June of 1887, the first National assemblage of Women’s Amateur Musical Clubs met in Chicago, Illinois where a temporary committee was formed. An invitation was issued at the time of the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) meeting “to all music clubs and friends interested in organizing a National Federation of Music Clubs”. The temporary committee met again in January, 1898 where a Board of Directors was formed from 19 members of various music clubs nationwide. The state of Illinois was granted a Charter with the Certificate of Incorporation and the National Federation of Music Clubs was born.
A small brochure telling of the aims of the newly organized Federation and an invitation for clubs to become affiliated was printed and sent to music clubs nationwide.
At its first biennial convention in 1898, four regional Vice-Presidents were appointed and a Constitution and Bylaws were adopted. The keystone of the Federation was the support of American Music, composers and artists.
By 1905, interest in the NFMC increased throughout the country and many music clubs became members – 125 in all.
State Federations were organized in 1916, with Wisconsin being the first to join the Federation!! Twenty others followed. The MacFadyen Music Club (later to be known as the Wauwatosa MacFadyen Music Club) in Milwaukee, was one of the first to become a member of the WFMC along with Beloit Treble Clef, Janesville MacDowell, Kenosha Schubert and the Sheboygan Music Club.
As the NFMC grew in membership, so did its programs: In 1915 the Young Artist Auditions began; in 1924 the first Junior Festival Bulletin was published; in 1928 Junior Festivals made their entrance in limited areas; the Student Division was created in 1934; Hymn of the Month was inaugurated in 1948. Many more departments and award opportunities were established in the following years and are ongoing to this day.
Mrs. Ronald Dougan (Vera) of the Beloit Treble Clef Music Club compiled and edited the first President’s manual and served as chairman and committee member in several departments of the NFMC. Vera Dougan also chaired the “Youth Brings You Music” weekly radio broadcasts on the NBC Radio Network featuring talent from the state federations. Vera Dougan served as NFMC President from 1955-1959. Under her leadership many new programs were introduced or expanded such as the Crusade for Strings with Dr. Thor Johnson (of Fish Creek, Wisconsin fame) as chairman. Young Artist auditions were expanded to men and women’s voice; interest in American Music was furthered by making February the Parade of American Music Month (music clubs nationwide had programs of American Music throughout February); National Music Week was sponsored by the NFMC in 1959 and became solvent under Mrs. Dougan’s leadership.
Since becoming a member of the NFMC in 1916, Wisconsin has grown: 17 Senior Clubs throughout Wisconsin were active – Barron, Rice Lake, Beloit, Janesville, Wauwatosa, Harmony, MacFadyen, Schubert, Sheboygan, Cumberland, Madison, Ashland, Menomonee, Stevens Point and Oconomowoc. All of these clubs were committed to following and supporting the programs of the NFMC such as: Parade of American Music, Hymn of the Month, Young Artist Auditions, Music Therapy, Music Education, and Junior Festivals, which today is the life and heart of the WFMC.
Beginning with a little over 100 entrants and only one event (piano) at its inception, the Junior Festival has grown from 4 festivals statewide to 18 presently across the state. Current WFMC festivals have multiple events including piano, strings, voice, organ, guitar, woodwinds, duets and theory to name a few.
While traditional Senior Clubs have diminished or faded away, the Junior Festivals have grown and clubs are being formed to accommodate teachers for eligibility of students to enter the Junior Festivals. The traditional music club is no longer the “norm” as teacher clubs are emerging because of interest in the Junior Festivals.
The Federation – National and State – is committed top promoting American composers and music, encouraging Music Education and appreciation of the Arts and providing aid to deserving young musicians through its many scholarship awards and auditions.
The Federation – National and State – prides itself in being the largest philanthropic music organization in the world; its members are musicians and non-musicians who love and support music and the performing arts and who volunteer their services and talents to promote the Federation objectives.