Our Oak Park Alumnae Chapter History
Astrid Silberer, our first president, organized the initial meeting of our chapter. Eleven SAI alumnae from the western suburbs of Chicago gathered for Tea at the Oak Park Arms Hotel, Oak Pakr, IL on February 6, 1944 to discuss the possibility of forming an Alumnae Group. The enthusiasm displayed was most encouraging and then and there the West Suburban Alumnae Group was formed; each member determined to help increase the membership at the next meeting. (Emma Menke, charter member, Pan Pipes, December, 1944). By October 13, 1946 when the chapter was installed as the Oak Park Alumnae Chapter by national President Kathleen Davison, there were 25 members.
During the 40s, the chapter held Musicale Teas as ways and means projects and collected music to be sent to the Philippine Islands and Korea.
In 1950, Florence Ruden’s image of a Grecian Lady was first used as the chapter’s yearbook cover and has been used ever since. Oak Park Alumnae chapter had its first scholarship recipient in 1955. The chapter was also instrumental in the installation of Rockford Alumnae Chapter and Epsilon Rho chapter at Northeastern Illinois University.
With the establishment of the “SAI Braille Music Transcription Project” in 1959, two Oak Park members became proficient in Braille transcription. A gift to the chapter established the “Berenice Tylman Memorial Fund” in 1964 which was used to Braille the text of the MacGhee’s People and Music for a music appreciation course at Hadley School for the Blind. A teacher’s manual and list of recommended records for the course were also compiled.
In the 1970s “Growing with Music Through the Clara Firnhaber memorial Fund” was established to encourage and develop promising talent in musically deprived children. During 1973, Oak Park Alumnae Chapter and Gamma Chapter initiated Lady Solti as an Honorary Patroness. In 1978 and 1979, “Faire on the Field” celebrations were held in Oak Park to give the public a chance to experience life during the Renaissance.
The chapter presented a Foreign Study Grant in 1982 and in the 1990s established the “Mabel Biever Fund” which has been used to give scholarship competitions and music camp scholarships. On the national level, the “Mabel Beiver Graduate Music Education Scholarship” was established.
Three memorial events are part of our chapter’s post-1980s history. The “Elthel Bullard Memorial Concert” featured pianist Alan Chow and was held at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple. Pianist Alex Peh, the “Mildred Crane Memorial Scholarship” winner gave a public recital. In 2006, the “Marilynn Kinzer Memorial Scholarship Competition was held.
Oak Park Alumnae Chapter initiated Rachel Barton Pine as a National Honorary Member June 14, 2003 at the Gamma Province Centennial Celebration. On April 8, 2006, we, along with Kappa Omega, initiated Greg Pine as a Friend of the Arts during Province Day at Elmhurst College.
We welcomed two additional women as National Honorary Members, Karen Shaffer of the Maude Powell Society on November 22, 2006 was initiated at National SAI Headquarters by President Virginia Johnson. Pam Blevins, also of the Maude Powell Society was initiated on July 29, 2009 at the SAI National Convention by president Elizabeth Nordling.
To celebrate the chapter’s 65th Anniversary, the chapter spent the year before the 2012 national convention building a 65th Anniversary Fund. The chapter presented the fund to SAI Philanthropies during the convention in Atlanta, GA.
During the 2010’s, the chapter has focused on community outreach through a partnership with the Oak Park Public Library. Each year the chapter offers the community a different musical gift, which have included free community concerts, a music career day and a master class by world renown violinist, Rachel Barton Pine.