The Texas Federation of Music Clubs was formed to aid communication and cooperation among Texas musical organizations and to promote music in the state. Although various municipal music clubs were founded in the late nineteenth century, until 1915 they remained independent organizations or were affiliated with the music department of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs.
Prompted by TFWC Music Department chairman Louise Pace of Corsicana, and by members representing the Music Festival Association and the National Federation of Music Clubs, which had been established at Chicago in 1893, the Texas Federation of Music Clubs was organized on November 12, 1915, in Brownwood, Texas, during the annual meeting of the TFWC. For her efforts Pace was offered the presidency, though she declined in order to study music in New York. At her request the office was extended to Lucile Manning Lyons, president of the Fort Worth Harmony Club. Twenty-two Texas music clubs composed the nucleus of the new organization, which then joined the National Federation of Music Clubs. Membership was open to all Texas musical organizations, from choral societies and festival associations to music study clubs. Among the original standing committees were Community Music, Public School Music, Contests, Scholarships, and the Artist Bureau for recital scheduling.
The new organization held its first annual convention in May 1916 at Waco, where the New York Philharmonic Orchestra provided the program. Ima Hogg was named second vice president. Fifty delegates attended, representing thirty Texas clubs, whose combined membership was about 1,000. By 1918, the year TFMC was chartered under Texas law, forty-eight clubs were enrolled. "Texas Bluebonnet blue" was adopted as the organization's color, with the flower as its emblem, which was designed into a pin by Tiffany and Company jewelers of New York.
During its first thirty years the Texas Federation of Music Clubs distinguished itself with music education and appreciation campaigns and with the promotion of musical therapy and musical performance. The organization achieved particular recognition for these efforts during the Great Depression, during both world wars, and in public education. During World War I the federation assisted the Red Cross, YMCA, and YWCA in providing musical entertainment for Texas army camps and scheduling musical benefits using Texas artists. TFMC also aided the war effort by encouraging the public's singing of patriotic songs, campaigning for sales of liberty bonds, contributing to the Texas War Work Council to establish and maintain canteens in Texas and France, and donating sheet music, musical instruments, phonographs, records, and player-piano rolls to Texas military installations.
Postwar effort involved bolstering the "Americanization" movement through music, a reflection of the national trend toward isolation, which inspired federation-conducted singsongs statewide each Armistice Day and contributed Texas support for the establishment of a national conservatory of music, which was envisioned to prevent the need for promising Texan and other American artists to study in Europe.
The number of affiliate clubs grew to seventy-seven by 1920. By the time of the administration of Minnie Cox Hambrick (1921–23), TFMC was involved in Music Settlement work to the underprivileged, vocational instruction of the blind, and furnishing music and instruments to and organizing concerts in charitable institutions, schools, and prison camps. The Texas Federation, like its national counterpart, promoted American music (though specifically by Texas composers), National Music Week and the Music Memory Contest (which were nationally concerted public-awareness campaigns), and music appreciation courses in the public schools.
Partly because of TFMC support, Texas cities began giving credit in public school for private music study. Under Hambrick's administration Texas led all other states in service and won awards for the most consistent growth. In 1923 the federation had divided the state into seven districts and had increased its number of committees to seventeen, including Public School Music, Industrial Music to promote musical activities in industry, Municipal Opera, Pageantry and Folk Dancing, the Texas Composer's Guild to promote Texas music, a state symphony orchestra, state festivals, and the Traveling Music Library. By 1928, 320 clubs were affiliated with TFMC.
On February 1, 1928, Texas Music News premiered as the federation bulletin under Mrs. James L. Price's administration, with Mrs. Charles G. Norton as editor. This publication replaced a small newsletter that Mrs. R. J. Skiles had issued at her expense during her presidency (1923–25) and made unnecessary the continuation of a two-page column of TFMC news printed in The Musicale.
By 1929 federation activities were so numerous and its organization so large that it withdrew as a dues-paying department of its parent organization, the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. An official seal was adopted, consisting of a Lone Star surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves atop an appropriate bit of music—"Texas, Our Texas," composed by William J. Marsh chairman of the federation's Texas Composer's Guild. TFMC efforts already had persuaded the state legislature to adopt Marsh's "sufficiently dignified" tune (as one federation president called it) as the state song.
With the onslaught of the Great Depression many clubs were forced to disband, but the federation remained active even in the dismal years of 1932–34. Its goal was to maintain musicians in order to "conserve American cultural traditions now threatened with annihilation," and to encourage music as a morale lifter in hard times. Texas continued to lead in the number of federated clubs as the TFMC sponsored radio programs featuring musical artists, donated musical instruments and radios to schools, and gave concerts in rural areas.
Supporting the campaign of the National Federation of Music Clubs to keep music and allied arts "in their rightful places in the 'New Deal'," TFMC helped to implement the Federal Music Project in Texas, thereby giving employment and opportunity to many unemployed musicians. In 1933 the federation added International Music Relations to its Department of American Music and adopted a Department of Motion Pictures with its Education Department, which sponsored many films and sought the production of superior music scores as a permanent requisite of motion-picture production. TFMC also sponsored numerous radio programs during the depression; sixty-five programs were presented from Paris and Longview in 1938 alone.
For the Texas Centennial in 1936 the Texas Federation of Music Clubs established a board to select Texas music appropriate for Centennial use. More than 300 manuscripts were submitted statewide, and the chosen pieces became "official Centennial music." In connection with the Federal Music Project, TFMC's 459 affiliate clubs helped to carry out musical events throughout the Centennial celebrations in each district, a highlight being the Texas Centennial Pageant at Dallas, which depicted "in drama, in color, in the dance, in song, the hardships, struggles, joys, and achievements" of Texas history. Throughout the Centennial each district of TFMC presented artistic programs, aiming "to spread the Gospel of Music throughout the entire State." Additionally, as a Centennial goal the federation sought to retain the hundreds of young Texans who sought collegiate musical training outside the state by establishing a fine arts department at the University of Texas. In large part because of what one Texas senator called TFMC's "zealous and persistent" petitioning of the governor, state legislature, and board of regents, the university founded its College of Fine Arts and Music Department at the Austin campus in 1938.
In the late 1930s Texas joined the national organization in promoting international understanding through music as an "antidote for the current war mania." During World War II, the antidote having failed, the Texas Federation of Music Clubs, together with other organizations, sponsored "Americanism Week" and the "Loyalty through Music Crusade." In 1941 TFMC established a Defense Department, which throughout the war aided USO entertainment, contributed funds to the Red Cross, and donated phonographs, records, radios, music, and musical instruments to military bases in Texas. At the suggestion of the U.S. State Department, the TFMC promoted Latin-American music to promote good relations with American allies to the south. Homefront club activities included production of music in the war industries, twilight musicals, park concerts, radio broadcasts, folk festivals, weekly community sings and dances for enlisted men, army-federation shows, and war bond drives.
TFMC also worked closely with the Joint Army and Navy Recreation Committee and helped to sponsor 700 shows for 245,000 men. The federation was named by the war department as the source from which post commanders should secure musical equipment, since the music industries were then producing war materials. The federation also conducted or encouraged musical therapy in military hospitals and prisoner-of-war camps. By February 1945 TFMC had music-rehabilitation programs in three of the four Texas VA hospitals, four of the five general hospitals, and in many camp and field hospitals, in addition to supplying musical instruments to hospitals ships and trains.
For its war service activities TFMC was awarded the national organization's highest honor in 1945, a prestigious supplement to a reputation that already included the formation of the first juvenile music club in the United States and the origin of National Music Week, both traceable to the Dallas district; Lucil Lyons as the first two-term national president; and the premiere of the Department of College and University Work, which was adopted by the national federation.
For some time after the war the federation continued to lobby for music in hospital therapy and as always encouraged local music-making and music education in the public schools. Nevertheless, TFMC membership and activities diminished significantly in the post–World War II era. Although the federation increased the original seven districts designated in 1928 to twelve by 1961 in order to equalize the number of counties in each district and to decrease the travel time of district presidents, the total number of clubs dropped to 156 in 1955 and continued to fall thereafter. Records indicate that TFMC activities in the 1950s and 1960s did not maintain the civic, artistic, or political impact that characterized the first thirty years of the organization's history, a reflection of the cultural changes brought on with the rise of movies, radio, and especially television, and other forms of alternative entertainment.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, however, affiliated clubs in the twelve districts continued to promote musical programs as well as award scholarships. In 1976 the TFMC held its first State Junior Festival, which featured workshops, speakers, and scholarship presentations. The event celebrated its fortieth anniversary, held on the campus of Texas State University, in 2015. By the mid-1980s the organization also focused promotional efforts on commemorating the Texas Sesquicentennial. The official publication of TFMC, The Musical Messenger, announced both regional events and news of the National Federation of Music Clubs.
At the annual state convention in Del Rio in March 1990, the Texas Federation of Music Clubs celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. The NFMC honored TFMC with several awards of merit for that same year.
During the 1990s and into the twenty-first century TFMC continued to sponsor twelve annual Texas Junior music festivals for the twelve districts, which awarded scholarships to young musicians. The organization sponsored a triennial Festival of Texas Composers concert series. Individual clubs practiced music therapy in nursing homes and hospitals, promoted festivals, and gave scholarships. The Texas Federation of Music Clubs celebrated its centennial in 2015. At that time, the organization consisted of nine districts and held a fall board meeting and one annual state convention. Scholarships were offered in the fields of dance, teaching, voice, instruments, and music therapy.