Harmony Club Awards Program
On March 1, 1939 at First Congregational Church, Harmony Club conducted a contest for Binghamton Central and Binghamton North High School music students. 14 students participated in the vocal and instrumental competition. Two prizes of $5 each (equivalent of $85 in 2016) were awarded. Harmony Club member “Did” Feeck served as one of the three judges. Thus began the tradition of Harmony Club awards to high school students “for outstanding vocal and instrumental achievement.”
Details of the program changed several times over the years and our records are incomplete. Beginning in May 1942, one vocal and one instrumental award were granted to the graduating class of each of the 2 Binghamton city high schools and judging was performed by the “musical supervisors of the schools.” By 1945 the awards were granted semi-annually at the January and June graduations and continued semi-annually until at least 1970. By 1950 and for at least 26 years it was said the awards were made not by competition but upon “recommendation by their music teachers and other [music] faculty.”
With the passing of Hannah Thomas, the awards became known in 1949 as the Hannah W. Thomas Harmony Club Awards. By 1984 one or more of the awards carried Hannah’s name, others bore other memorial names, the rest called simply Harmony Club Awards.
By 1975 the awards were opened to students in other area high schools. At some subsequent point, the awards became competitive again, with judging by an audition panel of Harmony Club members.
Currently, several awards are granted each year to high school seniors for “excellence in [vocal or instrumental] performance before an audition committee. Criteria for selection include musical and technical maturity, ability to communicate with an audience, and general stage presence and poise.” These awards are not scholarships and students need not be planning a career in music. Award winners and accompanists are requested to perform at the June Awards meeting, to which family, teachers, and guests are welcome.
Charter Member Lillian Benedict, addressing the 25th anniversary of the Club in 1950, said “How interesting it would be to trace the careers of these young people.” Indeed! We know of several who have or have had prominent music careers either locally or nationally. Compiling a complete list of award winners is a work in progress (about 375 names so far), and we would appreciate help in identifying them, especially those from many years ago.