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The Wednesday Music Club – celebrating 100 years in Tennessee

By Wanda Payne
Tomahawk Contributor

One hundred years ago this year, a determined group of ladies sought to bring a little culture to an isolated mountain community in the rural Appalachia town of Mountain City nestled in the far northeastern corner of Tennessee. World War I had started; Woodrow Wilson was President; automobiles had been invented, but were still sparse in this area, and women could not yet vote. The ladies organized the club on December 2, 1914, with twelve charter members under the leadership of Mrs. Doran Donnelly and Mrs. E. L. McDade and featured other prominent names in the community. They chose the name Wednesday Music Club with the purpose of encouraging the love of music in their community and to provide a social outlet for themselves. Soon after that first meeting, the club joined the National Federation of Music Clubs and the Tennessee Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1915, along with the Tennessee Federation of Music Clubs in 1918. The Wednesday Music Club still supports both the State and Federal Music Clubs and over the years has had several state officers including two presidents, one secretary, and a librarian.
Observance of the 25th anniversary was held on December 16, 1939, at the home of Mrs. J. C. Muse, where the club first organized with only two charter members present. The program for the celebration included members performing piano and vocal solos, a paper on “What the Music Club has Meant to Mountain City,” and a history of the club. As was the tradition, lovely refreshments were served in keeping with the holiday season.
Mrs. Wiley B. Mount entertained with a luncheon to commemorate the 50th celebration in June of 1964. The organizing president, Mrs. Doran Donnelly, was a visiting guest. The entertainment was provided by Mrs. Kenneth Roark, a harpist, who performed selections from several well known artists. Many guests joined the members, including Mrs. McDade, in recalling memories of the Club’s poignant history. Both of these gatherings included silver punch bowls and tea services, and all the ladies wore their favorite two-piece wool suits, pearls, white gloves, special hats, and nylon stockings, in June with no air conditioning!
At the 70th anniversary on December 5, 1984, hosted by Mrs. R. O. Glenn and Mrs. George Wright, the Wednesday Music Club was fortunate to be able to honor ten past presidents. The program for the afternoon was Early American Christmas Music given by Mrs. Roby Howard. She honored the past presidents by mentioning their favorite Christmas carols. Members, guests, and former members enjoyed a beautiful afternoon of music and refreshments.
The theme for the 75th anniversary year was “Retrace the past…anticipate the future.” A tea was held on Saturday, December 2, 1989, at the historical Butler House in Mountain City. Printed invitations were sent to neighboring music clubs as well as local dignitaries, past members, and friends and patrons of the arts. Music was provided by many of the members as well as guests in a celebration that paid tribute to the club’s founders and deceased members.
And now, one hundred years later, The Wednesday Music Club of Mountain City, Tennessee, is still alive and thriving. Over the years, and out of necessity, there have been many changes to the structure and dynamics of the club. Where once the traditional attire at a meeting was suits, pearls, and hats, now casual clothes including pants are acceptable. The meeting times have moved from one o’clock to 3:45 in the afternoon to accommodate those members with jobs, particularly teachers. Presently, monthly meetings are held in members’ homes, local churches, and restaurants. Active membership is limited to twenty-five, with five emeritus and five associate members. At one time the only way one could be voted in as a member was when a member died. There are still traditions that remain important to the Wednesday Music Club meetings. These include opening the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Federation of Music Clubs Collect and a conventional business meeting. The backbone of the monthly meetings is still the programs prepared and presented by the membership. These programs follow a theme created by a yearbook committee and in the early days these programs followed the guidelines set by the National Federation of Music Clubs. Over the years, the Wednesday Music Club members have studied everything from Mozart to Elvis, Opera, Musicals, and Jazz composers to Motown and Disco music. Instrumentally, the club has been entertained by a violinist, flutists, pianists, a bagpiper, bands, and recorded music. Little girls in ballet tutus have lept across living room floors and old time music has been performed on homemade instruments. Each meeting is traditionally closed with the singing of the Federation Benediction Hymn.

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