The Bellingham Music Club celebrated its 100-year anniversary at the Centennial Gala Concert, commencing their 100th annual concert season.
“The 2015-2016 concert season will be our 100th consecutive year of philanthropy, with music encouragement for the community and particularly students,” said Kristin Van Schelt, President of the Bellingham Music Club.
The Centennial Gala Concert took place at Bellingham High School on Sunday, June 21, and featured performances from club members and award recipients in the past 54 years. The Bellingham Music Club honored member and Western alumna, Joanne Donnellan, with the Woman of the Century award.
While Donnellan said she appreciated the honor, she wished all the musicians and students she shared the stage with could have been honored as well.
Van Schelt said they honored Donnellan for her contribution to local music education in Ferndale.
“She was responsible for such great string playing in the schools,” Van Schelt said. “She was the model for music in the schools.”
Donnellan received a scholarship award from the Bellingham Music Club in 1961 during her sophomore year at Western. Van Schelt said Donnellan was the also the first Western student to be given a Bellingham Music Club award.
Donnellan said she has been involved with the Bellingham Music Club since she received her award in 1961.
“I’ve been involved on and off, depending how busy my life has been,” Donnellan said. “I actually just ended my 15th year of retirement, so I’ve been more involved on the committees.”
Donnellan graduated from Western with music performance and music education degrees and went on to teach music in schools, eventually teaching a 129-student high school orchestra program at Ferndale High School.
Donnellan was involved in founding the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, which is currently celebrating its 40th-year anniversary, Van Schelt said.
Many of the string players at the gala concert were her former students, Donnellan said. One of the string players included her son, Grant Donnellan, a Bellingham Music Club award recipient and violin professor at Western.
“That was the first time I played a duet with him probably since he was in high school, so that was a new experience for both of us,” Donnellan said.
Many of Donnellan’s students have careers in music composition, performance and music education around the world and many have also won Bellingham Music Club awards, Donnellan said.
The club currently holds student music competitions, giving away many awards to competing regional high school students and Western students annually.
Madeline Slettedahl, a 2014 Western outstanding music graduate and master’s student at Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, won first place in the Bellingham Music Club Virginia Glover Scholarship Award competition in 2011.
Slettedahl has since played piano in the club’s Night Beat concert series and performed in this year’s centennial gala concert.
“It’s people like the Bellingham Music Club and its constituents that help to keep this amazing art alive,” Slettedahl said. “Art lives with youth, and the fact that they support the youth community and the entire musical community in Bellingham at large, it just shows a lot about the generosity and the artistic will of the Bellingham community. I think it’s an important thing to be a part of.”
The Bellingham Music Club, founded by Frances Larrabee and Mary Davenport-Engberg in 1916, began as a live performance club and quickly moved to hosting concerts and giving awards to local musicians, Van Schelt said.
The organization’s current goal is to support the musical community, and has been since 1916, Van Schelt said.
Proceeds from the Centennial Gala Concert supported the Bellingham Music Club student award program, Van Schelt said.
The club hopes to gain more members and continue to work with the local music community in the years to come, Van Schelt said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the club’s origins and the number of awards it gives away annually. The club began as a live performance club and they give away many awards every year.