The Marian Anderson Music Guild Scholarship program began in 1996 when Edra Jones Chandler presented a proposal to establish a vehicle through which young people throughout South Jersey could receive funds to help them continue their music education.
In 1997 she organized a singing group, The Three Sopranos, who included Edra Jones Chandler, Rachel Merrill and Eva Stroud. That same year the Guild, under the leadership of president Rachel Merrill, voted to establish a scholarship competition.
The Three Sopranos, accompanied by pianist, Judy Barkley, presented their inaugural concert at Grace Temple Baptist Church, Lawnside, New Jersey. Mr. Ukee Washington, news anchor at KYW News 3, served as the Master of Ceremonies. Proceeds from this concert were donated to the newly-established Marian Anderson Music Guild scholarship fund.
The Three Sopranos continued to present concerts to support the scholarship effort. They performed throughout 1997 and 1998. Guild member, Dr. Zoila Airall, an accomplished musician, agreed to serve as the accompanist when Judy Barkley left to get married. The group’s concert venues included churches, universities and locations sponsored by various community-based organizations. The programs were creative and financially successful. They were an important source of revenue for the Guild’s scholarship competition.
The Marian Anderson Music Guild Scholarship Competition was designed to mirror the format (classical and Negro Spiritual selections) of the national scholarship competition for the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., (NANM). MAMG held its first competition in March 1998 at Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey.
There were less than twelve student competitors. Linda Wright-Moore, columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, was the Mistress of Ceremonies. Subsequent competitions were held at Rosedale Baptist Church where the Reverend Timothy Merrill was the pastor. MAMG member, Julie-Ann Whitely, served as the scholarship chairperson through 1999. Edra Jones Chandler accepted the role of scholarship chairperson in 2000. Guild member, Teresa Epps, established the publicity program for the scholarship committee.
Students competed at two levels – middle school and high school. Each contestant was required to perform a classical selection, a Negro Spiritual and a composition by a published African-American composer. The first place winners received monetary awards; second and third place winners received savings bonds.
Eventually an elementary school level was added to the competion. As of 2011, college level students became eligible to compete in the Marian Anderson Music Guild's scholarship competition.
The members of The Three Sopranos had extremely busy schedules. Ultimately they made a decision to refocus their time and attention to the more pressing needs of their families and careers. The discontinuance of this group’s concerts resulted in a significant decrease in the revenues which supported the scholarship competition.
Recognizing this dilemma, MAMG member, Constance Hampton, organized the Guild’s first Stay At Home Tea. This was held in the spring of 2001.The success of this project provided the total source of funding for the 2001 scholarship competition. The project provided a great opportunity for Guild members to network with new “friends” of the Guild’s scholarship program. It remains a source of funding for scholarships.
In 2004, MAMG president, Jaye Green, recommended that the committee establish a minimum funding threshold to ensure that the Scholarship Competition would continue for the next year. The Guild adopted this policy.
The Guild sponsored other fund raising projects to support the scholarship program. These projects included a “Sunday Dessert Buffet”, a 2004 fall fundraiser held at the Virtuous Woman Bakery in Magnolia, New Jersey; and a 2005 collaborative effort with the Haddonfield School of Performing Arts. This event, “An Afternoon Tea”, was held at Cater 2 U, Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Finally, there were the Splendid Evening Concerts programs, produced and directed by Guild members Donald W. T. Cary and Edra Chandler.
Over the next few years, the Guild expanded its programming schedule to include The Sip & Sing Concert, Black History program, A Splendid Evening concert, an instructional Workshop and Master Class on The Negro Spiritual, and The Young Performers' Concert.
The competition moved to a new level under the guidance of our accomplished member, musician, teacher and scholar, Donald W. T. Cary. “Dr. Cary”, as he was referred to by all who benefitted from his expertise, joined the scholarship committee in 2004. He offered recommendations to improve the organization and operation of the competition.
Competitors would be required to pay a registration fee and the competition would be adjudicated in two segments - vocal and instrumental. These recommendations were incorporated into competition rules.
The competition is held annually in late April. It is open to students who live in South Jersey and attend elementary school, middle school, high school and college.