In 1879, two of the young female piano students of Professor Eban A. Kelly were inspired to suggest to him that they form a music club, and thus began the Chopin Club of Rhode Island, one of the oldest such clubs in America. The twelve charter members, initially all pianists and all women, met every two weeks from October to July, holding in the spring an annual concert to which guests were invited. The first such concert took place on April 6th, 1880: the program consisted of several four-hand pieces, a two-piano rendition of Chopin, and Military Marches by Chopin and Schubert played by eight hands; Mrs. Buffington, a guest, sang Gottschalk’s "O Loving Heart," and "Let Me Dream Again" by Sir Arthur Sullivan. In the second year a violinist was invited to join, and later a vocalist. In 1892, Robert Bonner, another prominent Providence musician and teacher, began a course in Harmony and Form for the Club, which ran on alternate Saturday evenings until 1897.
By 1906 the group had grown beyond its original limit of fifteen members and the number of meetings was reduced to one per month. "Gentleman's Night" (later changed to "Guest Night") first took place in the winter of 1912; associate members were invited to join; and Musical Teas were added. Meanwhile, the Annual Recital had grown considerably. According to Miss Emma Welch, one of the Club’s founding members, "The bevy of young ladies in dainty costumes was always an attractive sight" but since every member performed, it was suggested they should provide ambulances to carry home the exhausted listeners! In 1926, the Annual Recital, now called "President's Day," took place in the ballroom of the Biltmore hotel in downtown Providence, with several hundred in attendance. The following year, men were invited to join the Club. Soon after, a Junior Chopin Club was formed, then a Juvenile.
Mary K. Hail and the Music Mansion
Meetings were initially held in hired rooms, or sometimes "honorary members" with large houses acted as host. In 1905, some sort of rupture took place within the Club, and a splinter group formed itself into the Chaminade Club, another venerable Rhode Island institution still active today. The Chaminade’s first president was Mary K. Hail, a wealthy Rhode Island patron of the arts. In 1928, Hail built for herself a large residence on Providence’s East Side, which soon became known as the Music Mansion by virtue of its central room specifically designed to function as a concert hall. A small balcony overlooking the performance area, still visible today, probably allowed Hail to listen to meetings or rehearsals in the hall below without having to descend the stairs. Some club members still remember her sitting in an armchair during performances, just under where her portrait now hangs; the children, dressed in their finest, were taught to curtsy and bow to her after they played. When she died in 1948, she left the Mansion in trust for the use of the various music clubs in the area.
Chopin Club Today
From these beginnings, the Chopin Club has grown and flourished: now more than one hundred active members, most of them professional musicians, give generously of their time and talents at six Musicales per year held on Sunday afternoons in the Music Mansion. Each year, the current president hires one or more guest artists for the Presidents Day Concert in April; among the featured performers have been Beverly Sills and Arthur Fiedler. The two junior clubs are likewise still very active, with members coming from all over Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Both have monthly meetings from October to May at which the members perform for each other, as well as formal recitals twice a year. Music awards are given in the younger group, and substantial scholarships granted to selected high-school seniors who plan to pursue music seriously in their higher education.
This brief history by Edith Hemenway is based chiefly on material found in the archives of the Chopin Club held at the Library of the Rhode Island Historical Society. (Edited, September 2018, by Gabe C. Alfieri, Ph.D., Club Historian.)
Name The name of this organization shall be Chopin Club.
Object The object of this Club shall be to perform fine music, to encourage and develop a greater interest in music appreciation, and to assist our young artists, financially through scholarships, who intend to continue with their music.
Section 1. There shall be four classes of membership: Active, Associate, Honorary, and Life.
Section 2. Active Membership shall be limited to 200.
Section 3. Associate Membership shall be limited to 500. Members shall be admitted to the Club by invitation, and shall be entitled to attend all musicales.
Section 4. An Active Member may propose a name for Honorary Membership at a Board meeting of the Club. This shall be voted upon at the next Board meeting of the Club.
Section 5. The name of a member of long standing may be proposed to the Chair of the Membership Committee for Life Membership. The Membership Chair shall present such name to the Club at a Board meeting. A unanimous vote of those present shall be required for election.
Section 1. The officers of the Club shall consist of President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, Scholarship Treasurer, and Historian-Librarian. All of the above said officers, together with no more than 6 Directors from the Active Membership and from the Associate Membership, shall be elected by ballot at the Annual Meeting, and shall hold office for a term of two years.
Tenure of office shall be limited to two consecutive terms for the President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President and Corresponding Secretary, and to five consecutive terms for the Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, Scholarship Treasurer, Recording Secretary and Historian-Librarian.
Section 2. Any vacancy occurring between elections shall be filled at a Board meeting by a majority vote of those present.
The Board There shall be an Executive Board consisting of officers of the Club, all Past Presidents, Chairs of Standing Committees, Directors from the Active Membership, and Directors from the Associate Membership.
Committees The Chairs of the following Standing Committees shall be appointed by the President for the term of one year: Program, Membership, Hospitality, Tea, Ways & Means, Friendship, Scholarship, YearBook, Nominating and President?s Day. (Publicity has been combined with the Program and President?s Day Committees).
Section 1. The Annual Meeting of the Club shall be held on a Thursday in May.
Section 2. There shall be six(6) Board meetings of the Club on the first Thursday from October to April inclusive, omitting January. Seven (7) members shall constitute a quorum at a Board meeting.
Section 3. The Musicales of the Club shall be held on stipulated Sundays from October to May, inclusive. The Program Committee shall be authorized to specify the dates.
Section 4. The President may call special meetings of the Board or of the Active Members of the Club.
Section 5. Associate Members on the Board may cast a vote for every decision except auditions of Active Members.
Recognition of Exemption by Internal Revenue Service Based on information supplied to the IRS early in 1972, Chopin Club has been advised as of June 30, 1972 that: ?Donors may deduct contributions for scholarship purposes as provided in Section 170 of the Code. Bequests, legacies, or gifts (for scholarships) are deductible for Federal Estate and Gift Tax purposes under Sections 2055, 2100 and 2522 of the Code.? A Letter of Determination obtained from the IRS with an ID# 23-7182592 would allow tax-free gifts to the Chopin Club for scholarships. Any donor claiming such Federal Tax exemptions must use the above number.
An amendment to the Constitution and By-Laws may be proposed at a Board meeting, but may not be voted on until the following Board meeting. A two-thirds (2/3) vote of those present and voting is needed for approval.
Section 1. Active Members are expected to perform upon request without remuneration.
Section 2. All members shall be eligible for office, with the exception of Scholarship Treasurer and the Chairs of Program and Scholarship Committees, which must be held by Active members.
Section 3. An application for an Active member, sponsored by two members of the Club who have heard the applicant perform, shall be presented by the Membership Chair at a Board meeting of the Club. If acceptable, the Membership Chair shall invite the applicant to perform the required compositions at a Board meeting of the Club. The President may arrange special auditions provided notice is given to the Board a few days prior to the date of such special audition. A two-thirds vote by ballot of Active members present shall be required for election at either a regular or special Board meeting.
Section 4. Any Active Member of the Club my recommend to the Club at a Board meeting well-known musicians of professional standing to be invited to become Active members without the formality of an audition. Such professional musicians may also be invited for a hearing on a musicale. Recommended professional musicians must be voted upon for membership at the next Board meeting. a two-thirds vote by ballot of Active members present shall be required for election.
Section 5. Applicants for Associate Membership shall be sponsored by two members of the Club at large, and shall be elected to membership at a Board meeting of the Club by a majority vote of those present.
Section 6. Life Members shall be eligible to attend all musicales of the Club without further payment of dues.
Section 7. Former members who have resigned in good standing may be reinstated by a two-thirds vote of the members present at a Board meeting of the Club. Any member dropped for non-payment of dues may be reinstated by payment of the amount due in arrears.
Section 8. Applicants for Active Membership shall be required to perform the following, according to Classification:
1. Sonata by Beethoven. One Allegro movement memorized
2. Composition by Bach, not memorized
3. Composition by Chopin, memorized
4. Composition by 20th/21st Century composer, not memorized
1. Choice of one movement from a Sonata by Bach, Mozart or Beethoven, not memorized
2. Choice of one movement from a Concerto by Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Vieuxtemps or Max Bruch, memorized
3. Composition by a 20th/21st Century composer, not memorized
An applicant performing on any other instrument should present a program of recognized musical merit such as the audition for violin.
1. Selection from an Oratorio, not memorized
2. Choice of one of the German lieder, memorized
3. Aria from an Opera, memorized
4. Song by a 20th or 21st Century composer, memorized.
(At least one of the songs must be sung in a foreign language).
Section 1. The annual dues for all members shall be determined by the Board, and shall be payable on or before July 1.
Section 2. Members permitting their names to appear in the YearBook are required to pay dues for that respective year on or before July 1. Upon receipt of dues, YearBooks will be mailed.
Section 3. All members in arrears for one (1) year shall be automatically dropped from membership.
Section 4. All dues of those admitted to membershship after February 1 shall apply to the following fiscal year (May 1 to April 30) of the Club.
Duties of Officers
Section 1. The President shall preside at all meetings of the Club and of the Board; shall appoint the Chair of each Standing Committee, and shall be a member ex-officio of all committees.
Section 2. In the absence of the President, one of the Vice-Presidents in order of rank, shall preside at meetings and musicales.
Section 3. The Recording Secretary shall keep all records of the business of the Club, and shall present a written report at each Board meeting, as well as an Annual Report at the Annual Meeting, one copy of which is to be given to the Historian-Librarian.
Section 4. The Corresponding Secretary shall send all meeting notices and attend to general correspondence relative to the Club.
Section 5. The Treasurer shall receive all monies and disburse same under the direction of the Club, and shall render an itemized statement at each Board meeting, and an Annual Report at the Annual Meeting, one copy of which is to be given to the Historian-Librarian. The Treasurer will submit the Annual Report for audit after the end of the fiscal year. The Treasurer shall also manage the Club?s Endowment Funds, the interest of which is to be used for President?s Day expenses. The Assistant Treasurer shall function in the absence of the Treasurer and shall assist the Treasurer whenever necessary.
Section 6. The Scholarship Treasurer shall have charge of all scholarship accounts, and shall send out scholarships and awards upon receiving written notice from the Chair of the Scholarship Committee. The Scholarship Treasurer shall also give reports at Board meetings and at the Annual Meeting concerning monies received and disbursed from Scholarship Accounts; the annual Scholarship Treasurer report shall be submitted for audit after the end of the fiscal year.
Section 7. The Historian-Librarian shall have charge of all literature and music owned by the Club; shall keep a record of all events of the Club, and a record of any and all assets belonging to the Club exclusive of all monies.
Section 1. The Program Committee shall consist of six (6) Active Members. The Chair shall appoint the other five members for the next succeeding year in time for the Board meeting in March. They shall prepare programs and arrange for printing of the same. Dates for the coming year shall be selected by the Chair of this Committee and announced at the March board meeting. The Program Chair shall also attend to all newspaper notices of the monthly musicales except for the Presidents Day Musicale.
Section 2. The Membership Committee shall keep an accurate list of all members. Before presenting an applicant for Active Membership, at least two Active members of the Club shall have heard the prospective applicant perform. The Chair shall present a resume of the applicant at a Board meeting of the Club. If acceptable, the Chair shall notify the applicant of the requirements for audition. If elected to membership, the Chair shall notify the applicant by letter with an application form enclosed which the applicant fills out and sends to the Treasurer along with his/her dues for membership.
Section 3. The responsibilities of the Publicity Chair have been divided between the Chairs of the Program and President?s Day Committees. The Program Chair will attend to newspaper notoices for monthly musicales; the President?s Day Chair will attend to newspaper notices and publicity pertaining to President?s Day.
Section 4. The Hospitality Committee, chosen from the Club at large, shall act as hostessses at each musicale.
Section 5. The Tea Committee, chosen from the Club at large, shall have charge of all refreshments served at musicales.
Section 6. The Ways & Means Committee, chosen from the Club at large and having the Treasurer as Chair, shall raise funds for Club activities and scholarships. This may include requests for donations accompanying dues notices, as well as other fundraising events.
Section 7. The Friendship Committee shall send messages of condolence or felicitation, as the occasion requires. The Committee will also call new members and welcome them to the Club.
Section 8. The Scholarship Committee shall consist of a Chair and other Active members representing various disciplines, none of whom may serve more than eight consecutive years. All members should attend a minimum of two Student Musician musicales each school year. The Committee shall meet in the spring to decide on the scholarship awards. The Chair of the Committee shall notify the Scholarship Treasurer in writing of the name of each person to receive an award or scholarship, as well as the address to which the check is to be sent. For those attending colleges, the checks are sent directly to the school with two payees, the student and the college. The Chair will also notify the applicants in writing if they have been awarded a scholarship or not. For those receiving scholarship monies, the names of the scholarship funds and the amount of the award will be included in the letter.
Scholarship Policy: The Scholarship Committee?s first priority is to give awards to Chopin Student Musician graduating high school seniors who are intending to major in music in college. When additional funds are available, the Committee first considers funding for undergraduates, and then for professional musician members and for graduate students pursuing further musical development.
In order to be eligible for an award, high school seniors must be current active members of the Chopin Student Musicians Club for at least two years prior to their application, and must have stated their intent to pursue music as their major.
Undergraduates, who have also been members of the Chopin Student Musicians for at least two years, and who intend to pursue music as a major in college in the following year, are eligible to apply for awards. Graduate students may apply under the same rules as for undergraduates. Adult applicants must be current members of the Chopin Adult Club for at least two years and must plan to remain a member of the Club. In addition, for undergraduates, adults and graduate students, financial need must be established before any monies can be awarded.
Section 9. The purpose of the Newsletter is communication between the Executive Board and the membership at large. It also serves as a way to update the YearBook; the newsletter is published twice a year, in September (sent with the YearBook) and in March. The Newsletter editor works with the President and consults with the Executive Board to determine what information is to be presented in each issue. Material to be considered for inclusion should be sent to the editor by July 1 for the September issue, and by March 1 for the March issue. Material should be in writing or e-mail to insure accuracy. The Newsletter editor also maintains a mailing list of the membership, which is available for any mailing purposes the Club as a whole may have. Mailing labels may be requested from the Newsletter editor.
Section 10. The YearBook Committee, consisting of Chair, Treasurer, and Membership Chair, shall take charge of all matters pertaining to the compiling and printing of the YearBook. The Treasurer and Membership Chair provide up-to-date information regarding the membership roster (see By-Laws, Article II, sections 2 and 3). Books are sent to members only; membership information will not be shared with groups outside the membership.
Section 11. The Nominating Committee shall prepare a slate of officers as indicated in the Club?s Constitution, Article IV. A slate of the nominees selected shall be presented at the Board meeting in April and voted upon at the Annual Meeting in May.
Section 12. President?s Day, usually the last musicale of the season, honors all Presidents of Chopin Club, both past and present. A President?s Day Committee, appointed by the President, shall expedite all duties (including all publicity and newspaper notices) related to this event.
Section 13. An Investment Advisory Committee shall advise the Treasurer and the Scholarship Treasurer on investments.
Section 14. An auditor appointed by the Board shall audit the books of the Treasurer after the end of the fiscal year (May 1 to April 30).
Section 15. All committees and all members are required to obtain the authority of the President or the Treasurer before contracting any bills.
Counselors The President shall appoint Counselors for the Chopin Young Musicians, one of whom must be an Active member. The President will also appoint the Counselor and Advisor of the Chopin Student Musicians. Both must be Active members. A Counselor shall be in attendance at every meeting of the Clubs. Counselors shall submit a report of their Club?s activities to the Senior Club at the Annual Meeting.
Future Contingent Provision for Chopin Club Assets
Section 1. In the event that the Chopin Club should cease to exist at any time and for any reason, all monies in the Club Treasury and/or in scholarship funds (with the exception of the ?Catherine F. Smith Scholarship Award? which will go to the University of Rhode Island Music Department, and the Helena B. Meenan Scholarship), will be managed by the Rhode Island Foundation, the interest to be used for worthy students in need of financial assistance in various local music departments.
Section 2. Chopin Club?s Mason & Hamlin grand piano is now located in the Mary K. Hail Music Mansion, 88 Meeting Street, Providence, Rhode Island (by permission of the Friends of the Music Mansion, successor Trustees of the Homestead Estate under the will of Mary K. Hail, to be used according to the rules and regulations as stipulated by said Trustees.)
In the event Chopin Club should cease to exist, the disposition of the said Mason & Hamlin piano shall be decided on at a special meeting of the Executive Board and all Active members of the Club. Similar disposition shall apply to all other assets of the Club exclusive of all monies.