A Brief History of CMM
Civic Morning Musicals was founded in October 1890. The original name was Morning Musicals; the name Civic Morning Musicals did not come into use until 1952, when Morning Musicals merged with Civic Music Association, a concert-sponsoring group founded in 1917. Morning Musicals began as a vehicle for talented ladies in Syracuse to perform music for each other, and membership carried with it the obligation to perform. Recitals initially featured primarily pianists and singers. During the second season, guest performers were occasionally invited, and in 1894 Morning Musicals began presenting concerts featuring performers from outside Syracuse, beginning with the Beethoven Quartet from New York City. Soon others were invited, and within a few years of its inception Morning Musicals brought the finest musicians to enthusiastic Syracuse audiences: virtuoso pianists and violinists, symphony orchestras, chamber music ensembles, operas, and ballets from all over America and Europe. This impresario role continued for eight decades until the need for such concerts was largely superseded by the activities of Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music (founded in 1949), the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (1961), the Society for New Music (1971), Syracuse Opera (1974) and others.
CMM has continued to provide concerts for Central New York audiences featuring outstanding, musicians, mostly of them local. Beginning in the 1970s it has presented Sunday concerts at the Everson Museum, known as “Live! at the Everson”. It presents free lunchtime concerts from September through May, now known as “The Wednesday Recital Series”, also at the Everson Museum. A superb 9-foot Steinway D concert grand piano, owned jointly by CMM and the New York Music Teachers Association, and a 7-foot Steinway B, owned by CMM, are frequently used in these concerts.
Beginning in its early years, CMM also focused on mentoring and nurturing young, local musicians. In 1907 two scholarship funds were established, which led to the annual award of scholarships to Syracuse University students beginning in 1913, and then made available to students at other schools. In 1919 Morning Musicals established a music school for underprivileged children – many of whom were recent immigrants – known as the Settlement School. Teachers were musicians from Morning Musicals who volunteered their services. In 1961, CMM created Junior Pro Art to serve the interests of area youth, generally in 7th through 12th grades, with a focus on providing students with opportunities to perform and to discuss the performance process. Various competitions for young musicians were established throughout CMM’s history beginning in 1914.
In 1969 CMM, in collaboration with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, launched the annual Youth Concerto Competition for Central New York students in grades 7 through 12. Winners appeared with the SSO (now Symphoria) to play a movement from a concerto. In 1977 CMM inaugurated the Vocal Competition for young singers ages 17-27 in New York and adjacent states.
Participating in these competitions was often an important early step in a professional career for many musicians from Central New York. As part of our 125th anniversary celebration, CMM is paying tribute to them by inviting 14 former winners to participate in 7 concerts throughout our 2015-16 Season.
Another event to mark our 125th anniversary is the publication of a richly illustrated 108-page book by H. Richard Levy and Beth Sotherden, featuring CMM’s history with illustrations selected from thousands of documents housed in our archives. The book also features six appendices: CMM’s presidents since 1890; major presentations by Morning Musicals and CMM since 1894; Music Awards presented by CMM since 1973; Youth Concerto Competition winners since 1969; Vocal Competition winners since 1977; and biographies of selected Youth Concerto and Vocal Competition winners with current photographs and photographs taken at the time they won. This book is available for $40 or 2 copies for $70.