NOTES DA CAPO - By Clifford Brown
September 1988

Today's music teachers may not realize how much non-school groups have contributed to the development of music education. One of the earliest and most influential groups was the West Virginia Federation of Music Clubs. It was organized in Clarksburg in 1917 under the auspices of the Marcato Music Club "to stimulate an interest in good music and the encouragement of musical education and native creative talent." An early convention program of a meeting in Parkersburg reveals extensive efforts to establish artist bureaus and to study public school music credit systems, community and municipal music, American music, and programs by club members and guest artists.

By 1919 the following local clubs were organized in the state: Charninade Club, Welch; Buckhannon Music Club, Buckhannon: Fairmont Choral Society, Fairmont; Madrigal Club, Grafton; Music Teachers Association, Clarksburg; Music Department of Women's Club, Parkersburg; Weston Music Club, Weston; Woman's Music Club, Grafton; and Woman's Music Club, Morgantown. By 1929 there were eighty-eight clubs in the state with a total membership of approximately 2500. State contests in piano, voice, violin, high school orchestra, glee club, band, church choir, and composition had evolved. The total membership by 1954 was approximately 3000.

In 1958, with the American Music Conference and the National Recreation Association, the Federation sponsored National Music Week. West Virginia is the only state to have received an annual individual scholarship from the National Federation of Music Clubs for opera coaching. The recipient studied under Boris Goldovsky, who directed the Oglebay Institute Opera Workshop in West Liberty and Wheeling. J. Henry Francis, one of the organizers of the WVMEA, was somewhat of a catalyst between the Federation and the public schools when he served as Director of Music in the Kanawha County Schools. He was a long-time member and officer in the Federation along with being involved in statewide activities of the WVEA.

The music clubs have spearheaded activities and projects in schools and communities, developed music contests, raised funds for scholarships or other student assistance, provided music in hospitals, grass roots opera, music in industry, folk music, and sacred Music. We owe a debt of gratitude to those dedicated individuals who helped to establish music as an integral part of school and conununity life througout West Virginia.

[Much of this information about the Federation of Music Clubs was extracted from the West Virginia University doctoral dissertation of Owen West, formerly a member of the music faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan.]