At the turn of the 20th century, the town of Greenville was booming with the tremendous growth of the new textile business. The city boasted 10,000 citizens, five cars and trolleys on Main. Elaborate two-story Victorian homes were being constructed downtown. A Grand Opera House was built to accommodate local and traveling performing groups. With a focus on literature and the arts, Greenville Baptist Female College had a splendid music department. All of this growth created a strong desire for more cultural growth, and the Music Club of Greenville was born.
One of the longest-serving groups in Greenville, The Music Club of Greenville had its beginnings in the home of Mrs. George W. Ebaugh on Pinckney St. in the late summer of 1906. The founders of the Club were four young matrons: Mrs. W.P. Conyers (Marie Crosswell Gower) vocalist, Mrs. O.B. Hartzog (Rozelle Waddill), pianist and organist, Mrs. Robert I. Woodside (Lula Baynard Woodside) pianist and harpist, and Mrs. George Ebaugh (Caroline Smith), pianist.
The following November 19, 1906 the first program and organizational meeting of The Music Club of Greenville was held and Mrs. Conyers was elected president (1906-07, 1911-15). The program was a study of Beethoven – “His Influence on the Development of the Sonata” followed by a piano solo and a “song recital.” The founders’ intent was to make a musical contribution to the city’s culture, its happiness and its education.
Since its inception, the purpose of this club has been “to broaden the culture of its members, to encourage thorough appreciation and understanding of music, and to stimulate musical interest in Greenville.” The city has been the beneficiary of the founders’ goals and The Music Club of Greenville has continuously promoted musical activities and actively encouraged young artists.
Joining the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) in June 1920, The Music Club of Greenville - the fourth oldest music club in the South Carolina Federation of Music Clubs (SCFMC) - was one of 11 clubs which met at Chicora College in Columbia in 1920 and organized the SCFMC. In 1922 the first Junior and Juvenile clubs in the SCFMC were organized by the club, under the direction of Mrs. George Ebaugh, who was at the time the state federation’s first Junior Counselor.
Some firsts in the club’s history are: first club in South Carolina to observe National Music Week in 1926; the first Past President’s Assembly Chapter in South Carolina was organized in this club and chartered January 31,1938; the organization and first concert of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra was co-sponsored by The Music Club of Greenville and the Crescent Music Club; presented the first radio program to be broadcast from Greenville over a temporary station WHBL (Feb. 1, 1924); and furnished a musical program for the formal opening of the Greenville Public Library.
As early as 1925 and before the Community Concert Association, Peace Center and Greenville Symphony, The Music Club of Greenville had its own “Artists Course”! The “artists course” was a season of concerts presented for the Greenville community by subscription.
In 1937 club members helped formed a Bach Choir under the direction of Dr. H. Merrills Lewis, professor of organ and theory at Furman University. Over 15 years in existence, the choir sang thirty-one concerts and appeared on a coast-to-coast radio broadcast from Greenville.
In 1938, former member Miss Lennie Lusby, professor of strings at Greenville Woman’s College, organized her high school and college students, and players from the community to form an orchestra. There were 53 players sponsored by a Music Forum. Mrs. Richard Watson, a former club president, served as the president of the Forum and Mrs. Woodside as the vice-president. The concert took place at Greenville Woman’s College on April 14, 1938. Thus began the Greenville Symphony Orchestra. After its initial performance, The Greenville News wrote: “The concert marked an important occasion for Greenville music lovers in that it was the first appearance of the first symphony orchestra ever assembled in Greenville.”
In 1948, music club member Miss Rita Baker was hired to begin a strings program for fifth and sixth grades in the public schools. Fellow club member and a past president, Miss Rogene Boyles, was one of the first to be hired as the elementary music supervisor in the public schools. When the schools were consolidated in 1952, Miss Boyles supervised 340 classrooms.
The club filled a vital need in the community during the two World Wars and the Great Depression of 1929. The RedCross, Hopewell Sanitarium, The County Home, Shriners Hospital, Camp Sevier, Camp Croft and others shared in its many projects. Possibly one of the most worthwhile programs undertaken by the SC Federation was its World War II service work under the chairmanship of former president, Mrs. David Tillinghast, for which South Carolina was ranked second in the nation. $14,000 was raised for shipment of musical instruments, chaplains’ kits, etc. to our men in the service, at home, on ships and overseas.
The club is affiliated with and has served the NFMC (founded in 1898) and the SCFMC, not only through full cooperation in its activities, but by service of many of the members in official capacities. Club members Mrs. Robert I. Woodside (1923), Mrs. John Bateman (1934), Mrs. Jack C. Ward (1960), and Mrs. J. Henry Tindal (1978) have served as Presidents of the SCFMC, and Mrs. Ward served as President of the NFMC (1979-83). The first NFMC Past Presidents’ Assembly Chapter in SC (11th in the nation), was organized by The Music Club of Greenville in 1938.
In addition to its musical and social interests, the club has always participated in civic affairs, and the humanitarian effort has closely paralleled the artistic. Members of the Club have worked diligently at their careers or at their avocations to encourage music in the Greenville community, the state and the nation as well as lead and sponsor musical young people.
The club supports the following musical/arts organizations: NFMC, SCFMC and its scholarships, Brevard Music Camp, and the SCETV Endowment. The club continues to meet monthly for musical programs and follows the course of study and plans for work suggested by the NFMC. The club encourages original composition by members of the club and other outstanding students of music in the community. Thus, The Music Club of Greenville has been loyal to its original objective and even broadened its scope to provide music to our community and our nation.
It was with great pride and grateful hearts that the membership of The Music Club of Greenville celebrated its 100- year anniversary with friends of the community on November 13, 2006 at The Poinsett Club. After dinner, entertainment was presented by honorary members of the club, Bruce Schoonmaker and Michael Rice. To commemorate this happy occasion, the club presented two tympani to the Fine Arts Center of the Greenville County School District and presented monies toward additional scholarships to high school seniors preparing for college studies in music.
Through the years the club has held various fundraising events. An exceptionally successful event in February 2008, the Broadway to La Scala Gala included dinner and entertainment featuring opera singers Tina and Jim Broussard, and Wendy and Troy Curtis accompanied by Nancy Smith. On March 8, 2010 The Music Club of Greenville presented Karen Parks, Soprano, in a “Coming Home” Concert Gala with dinner and concert at The Poinsett Club, where she was accompanied by Honorary Member, Michael Rice. Since then, the Club has been successful in writing grants and using those monies to support our Instrument Program and music programs in our schools. Most recently, we were awarded over $73,000 by Greenville Women Giving to support the Tanglewood Middle School program.
Each May meeting of the club features the recipients of the club’s scholarships in conjunction with National Music Week. Awarding scholarships since 1973, the club awards up to $10,000 annually to music and music ed students. Likewise, each fall the club recognizes need within the community and schools by providing grants for music-related education activities.
The Collect of the NFMC states “We praise and thank Thee, Father, for the gift of music. Through us, as channels of Thy grace, may this blessed legacy be shared with all mankind…to bring the spiritualizing force of music to the inner life of our nation.” We are reminded of this purpose as we make music. The sum of the work, projects, activities and accomplishments continues to reveal that expressed purpose: “to bring the spiritualizing force of music to the inner life of our nation.” May we, at the end of the day, proclaim we did our best.
These brief historical notes written by: Beverly T. Henderson, Past President (1977-79), The Music Club of Greenville