The Cleveland Music Club began on Dec. 5, 1911, with founder Ruth Aiken, which makes it the oldest club in Cleveland.
A small group of musicians met at the home of Mrs. W.S. Milne on Ocoee Street to organize into a music club. That first meeting was in the Craigmiles House, which now houses a part of the Cleveland Public Library.
Originally called “Music Lover’s Club, the group decided to meet the first and third Monday of each month. Officers selected were Ruth Aiken, president; Margaret Hardwick, vice president; and Stirling Milne, secretary and treasurer.
The meetings were times of discussion, concerts, musical performances, poetry readings and recitals. According to the minutes of June 4, 1912, Sterling Milne was hostess of the club for “one of the most interesting meetings in the history of the club.” The life and works of the Polish composer Chopin furnished the topic for the afternoon’s feature with the musical program “furnished by Professor and Madame Carl Fallberg.”
By 1913, approximately 200 attended a reception held at the Milne home. Mrs. B.M. Webb, and Misses Mary Shedan, Ethel Milne, Grace Phillips and Margaret Eldredge became members. The last meeting of the year was held at the home of Mrs. Hal B. Moore on Dec. 9, and featured reading of Riley’s poems by Mrs. Charles Mayfield.
The Music Lover’s Club had always been involved in benevolent work, and in December, 1914, a benefit was given for Associated Charities at the Southern Methodist Church. Along with the members of the club, the Episcopal and Cumberland Presbyterian choirs gave a cantata titled “The First Christmas.”
Mrs. Aiken, founder of the Music Club, continued to promote music in Cleveland through her teaching students in piano. A recital program (May 28, 1915) listed these students: Elizabeth Johnston, Annie Laurie Keys, Dixie Fallberg, Maud Weiss, Austin Weiss, Caroline Johnston, Bessie Hargis, Lucile Easterly, Robert Hawk, Melissa Bryant, Louise Rector, Eugenia Harris, William Trotter Blevins, Dorothy Hermann and Ruth Haggard. The recital was held in the Sunday School Room at the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
In the minutes from February 1918, the club met with Mrs. Aiken to do “war work,” coming together with the community during the crisis years.
In 1923, the music club became one of the departments of the newly organized Woman’s Club. In 1929, it became an independent organization through the leadership of Mrs. C.W. Harle.
A junior club was active in 1927, according to a program, which was duplicated on a gel block. Some of the performers on program were Ross Mayfield, Arthur Foster, Mary Frances Stuart, Blanche Margaret McNabb, Augusta Easterly and Frances Campbell.
Over the years, Cleveland has been host to many outstanding musicians. Not only has the club promoted the Community Concerts, but each year club members give a public concert, usually at a local church. One notable concert was Keyboards ’80 with seven pianos and 15 pianists.
The club has received several awards, among them, the Award of Merit in the “Parade of American Music” under sponsorship of the National Federation of Music Clubs from 1965 through 1969.
The Cleveland club was the only club in the third district to receive an award for its music week promotion. The club placed emphasis on patriotic music such as “This is My Country, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “This Land Is Your Land.” Also, an honorable mention certificate was presented to the Cleveland Daily Banner.
In fulfilling its mission, the club bestows an annual scholarship to a high school student in Bradley County who plans to pursue a college education in music.
The scholarship program was established in 1968-69 and is funded by members’ dues, donations, memorials and donations through concerts given by club members. Recipients of the scholarships are chosen by auditions before the Scholarship Committee.
In 1985, the Music Club acquired a nonprofit, tax deductible status so it could receive donations.
The club celebrated its 75th anniversary in February 1987 with a tea at the home of Mrs. Coleman Sawyer. Bylaws were reviewed and revised and a criteria for membership was established.
Any person who desires membership in the club must be recommended, accepted by the membership committee, commit to be the host of a monthly meeting and perform at a program during the year.
Each meeting centers around a theme such as “Evening Shades,” “My Summer Vacation” and “Smorgasbord II.” The number of members has been limited to 50 since it has regularly met in homes. In addition to monthly meetings, a board meeting is held each year.
It’s been 100 years since ladies met at the home of Mrs. Aiken and began a legacy of music — a gift to the community — and it has, through the years, enriched the lives of Cleveland and Bradley County people.
So Cleveland Music Club invites Cleveland to help celebrate its centennial Sunday at Cleveland Bradley County Public Library.
The 100th anniversary reception will be held in the Community Room from 1 to 3 p.m. (Walk to the 3 p.m. “A Classic Christmas” concert at the Conn Center.)
Attending the event will be former scholarship winners: Adam Williams, Beth Holsclaw, Victoria Betts and Bethany Luzader. Along with all former winners and former members of the club, the public is invited to share in the celebration.
The Collect of the Cleveland Music Club — written by Elizabeth Cate Manly — states its mission:
We thank Thee, Lord, for music — thy great gift
Enjoyed and understood by all mankind
From simple song to brilliant symphony,
The language of the mind and soul and heart,
This cherished gift, a trust, is ours to share.
We ask Thy blessing as we strive to give
To music now and in the years to come
Its rightful place in our community.