1945 – Present : More than sixty-five years of great chamber music.
The Formative Years: 1945 ~ 1955
Elmer Scott’s Story: In 1917, Elmer Scott founded The Civic Federation of Dallas as a community-wide social service agency. Under Mr. Scott’s leadership, the Federation presented lectures, socials, dramas and eventually, musical evenings. Many of these events were held in an auditorium in a large house on Maple Avenue. In 1938, the auditorium was named Scott Hall in honor of Mr. Scott and now has long-since been demolished. After attending a concert at Scott Hall, Joseph Kirshbaum, professor of violin at North Texas State College (now University of North Texas), praised the hall as a great place for chamber music, a comment that inspired Mr. Scott to try a series of concerts of internationally known ensembles. The first concert was performed on November 20, 1945 with the Lener Quartet as part of a five concert pilot season, a pattern that has been maintained ever since.
Mr. Scott retired prior to the 1952 – 1953 season but continued as consultant for the series, which was managed through the Civic Federation of Dallas and later the Dallas Council on World Affairs, until Mr. Scott’s death in April, 1954.
The Early Years: 1955 ~ Present
Incorporation of the Dallas Chamber Music Society: A year before Elmer Scott’s death, a music committee was set up with J. Howard Payne as chairman. In the meantime, Dorothea Kelley with her husband Bartram and three small children had arrived in Dallas in 1952 from Buffalo, New York, where Dorothea had been manager of the Buffalo Chamber Music Society. Mr. Payne invited Dorothea to be a part of the committee. During Mr. Scott’s last illness, Dorothea assumed his duties in the music field, all of which expanded into full management of the concert series. After Mr. Scott’s death, Dorothea offered to take over the chamber music series in addition to her position as violist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
In 1955, Dorothea, along with seven other music lovers, with a view to perpetuating the Elmer Scott Concert Series, decided to establish an independent organization, and thus the Dallas Chamber Music Society came into being, chartered as a Texas nonprofit corporation in April, 1955. The initial Board of Directors and Executive Committee Officers included J. Howard Payne as president; Masha Porte, Isadore Segal and Lionel Brown as Vice Presidents; William G. Lipscomb as Secretary Treasurer, and Dorothea Kelley as executive vice president and manager. The Dallas Chamber Music Society emblem, drawn by artist Owen Travis specifically for the Society, first appeared on programs in the 15th Season (1959 – 1960).
Dallas Chamber Music Society concerts were held in Scott Hall until the building was demolished in 1960, after which they moved to Highland Park Town Hall, The Hockaday School, and several venues on the campus of Southern Methodist University, before moving to Caruth Auditorium in 1965.
Dorothea Kelley served as Artistic Director from its incorporation until 2009, when she passed the baton to Candace Bawcombe. Dorothea was the inspiration that sustained the organization through the years. She was also the Manager until 1997, shepherding the organization through many difficult years – pleading and cajoling volunteers to help with the activities needed to plan and execute each season’s concerts. Her primary aim was always to present chamber music concerts of only the highest quality available. The organization was proud to organize a successful Gala in 2006 on the occasion of Dorothea Kelley’s 100th birthday. While Ms. Kelley stepped down as Executive Director, she continued her active role as Artistic Director and Board member until her death in 2009. P Jay Peterson joined the organization as Executive Director in 2007. In 2011, Ms. Peterson moved into her position as Executive Director for Development and LaNell Armour was hired as the organization’s General Manager.
Dallas Chamber Music Society has presented an impressive series of distinguished chamber music ensembles over the years, including Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Ensemble, Emerson String Quartet, Juilliard Quartet, New World Quartet, and St. Lawrence String Quartet. Hardly any famous trio, quartet or chamber orchestra has not been heard on these programs.