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Notes from the Past: Careful Management and the First WMC Scholarship

Twenty-one years after its establishment, the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg had done much to foster the appreciation of classical music in the citizens of Winnipeg, but judging from an item in the Special Articles section of the Saturday, October 2, 1915 Free Press - Winnipeg, much more was expected from the WMC. While the writer found the club admirable in many ways, in her eyes it was still lacking, hence the questions: “Is the Women’s Musical Club of this city living up to its opportunities? Is it filling the place that the citizens of Winnipeg and the west have a right to expect?” Too exclusive? (“Certainly in keeping up the standard of music among the select few it is doing its part well.”) Too expensive? (“And doubtless the bringing of noted artists to the city may also be reckoned as a service the club has rendered, although in the vast majority of these occasions the prices of admittance were such that the quantity of Winnipeg if not the quality had to take its satisfaction out in study of the announcement cards in the music store windows.” ) These were some of the shortcomings she aimed at the club. The writer demanded of the club “some responsibility of service” including open public recitals that could make music of “the great masters” available to new immigrants and “garden variety Canadians”. In its favour, she admitted that the WMC had “encouraged local artists, as is easily perceivable from a perusal of the programmes" and had “inaugurated a scholarship fund, the idea being to encourage aspiring musicians. Again one has the pleasure of saying “Well done”, even though the feeling does linger that 16 years was a somewhat lengthy period to be deciding upon such a practical way of encouraging the art to which the club membership is presumably devoted.” Was this a fair judgment? A letter to the editor (Manitoba Free Press) on Thursday, October 7, 1915, from “An Interested Non-member” took up the challenge. “Apart from the concert programmes, provided by the active members during the season, the club has rendered no inconsiderable musical service to the city by bringing distinguished artists here, who would not otherwise have come, and this has almost always been at the loss of fifty to five hundred dollars; indeed, scarcely ever have expenses been paid without dipping deeply into the treasury. Yet for the sake of music and of the public the club has continued to spend money this way, not counting it as lost.” Further, speaking to the origins of the first WMC scholarship, the writer continued, “Some five years ago the club invested a sum of money (the result of careful management), which has increased sufficiently to establish a foundation. The first beneficiary is now studying in New York, and a scholarship will here-after be awarded every year.” WMC’s first scholarship was not an afterthought, but the result of prudence and planning. It marked the beginning of an important new role for the WMC as a supporter of young musicians with exceptional talent, which we are proud to carry on to this day. Thank you to our unknown champion for setting the record straight. Mary Lynn Duckworth, WMC Chair of Archives November 2021


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