From the Beginning...

Twenty-Five Years of Classical Chamber Music Concerts from Friends of Music

The Frank W. Cyr Center
June 15, 2011

In our culture we place great significance on certain numbers. “Twenty-five” is one such number; a quarter of a century in our reckoning of time. As in all celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries, there is happiness at reaching a milestone, and also a trace of the bittersweet. While we fondly remember days past and honor the people whose work through the years has made the present season possible, we also mourn those who are no longer with us, in all senses of that phrase.

2011 marks the twenty-fifth season for Friends of Music of Stamford NY, Inc. as a separate organization. Beginning in 1985 as a gathering of like-minded classical music enthusiasts from the Stamford area, the idea evolved into an association that would routinely sponsor chamber music concerts. Originally a part of MURAL (the Mt. Utsayantha Regional Arts League, which still sponsors the art exhibits we all enjoy viewing at the concerts), Friends of Music of Stamford NY was incorporated in 1986. Founding members included current board member Eva Lisa Kovalik along with Dorothy L. Aldrich, Don and Doris Blake, David C. Caddis, Dorothy Vaernewyck and Diane Wickham.

Funds were granted by the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation for the purchase of a used Steinway Series B grand piano from The Juilliard School. The arrangement was made by Mrs. Kovalik, who has taught piano at Juilliard for more than 40 years. Additional funds were contributed to make extensive renovations to the piano after it arrived in Stamford, and the generosity of the Foundation continues through the decades to make our musical seasons possible.

The former ballroom where our concerts are presented.
Note the piano in the background, against the windows
onto the former hotel's porch.
As noted by author Kevin O. Wilson in his research for the organization, the history – and most particularly the future – of Friends of Music is tied to the Cyr Center, the building that houses our concerts. This building played a very important role in Stamford’s past. Rescued from decay in the tumultuous 1960’s by the visionary educator and author Frank W. Cyr, the future for the former Rexmere Hotel is once again uncertain. A photograph of the Cyr Center taken in May, 2011 is the background for this blog as of the date this is written. With its long-time business tenants about to vacate the premises, committees of concerned local residents have been formed to conjure up a new function for the space in hopes of preserving it further for posterity, and for more years of music and the visual arts to be enjoyed here.

Various people came and went from the Board of Directors over the years, each adding their influence to the organization that has become a somewhat taken-for-granted institution in Stamford village life. The season gradually lengthened to the current 9-concert series, and the performers graduated from being mostly local to mostly national and international professionals, though we still try to feature local musicians at least twice each year. Wherever the artists may live, the quality of the music made here at the Cyr Center on the third Sunday of each month from April through November is astoundingly good, even in the presence of an audience that generally numbers well less than one hundred. In the context of excellent acoustics and in close proximity to the artists, the experience of a live performance in such an intimate setting can truly be a wondrous and an exhilarating one.

This brief history of Friends of Music is far from complete and lacks input from many individuals who played a role. Should you have additions to our story, whether from yourself personally or from someone you know, or memories of particular performances or comments on the series overall, please pass them on to us that we may add to this archive. Photographs are much appreciated as well, and originals will be handled carefully and returned to you if you wish; digital versions will be accepted most gladly.