Financial Planning Leads to an Exciting New Competition: The Atlanta Ago Chapter's Story

By Mellichamp, James F. | The American Organist, March 2011 | Go to article overview
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Financial Planning Leads to an Exciting New Competition: The Atlanta Ago Chapter's Story


Mellichamp, James F., The American Organist


Given the present world economic situation, this may seem an odd time to think about the need to provide a solid financial footing for an organization such as an AGO chapter. However, in good times and in difficult times, it is important to consider building a "nest egg" to ensure that every chapter has some additional sense of security. For, as ancient Petronius advised, "He that hath a penny in his purse is worth a penny: have and you shall be esteemed."

The members of the Atlanta Chapter have certainly been the beneficiaries of such sound leadership. Recently, a generous gift from a member's estate has also enabled the chapter to develop an important new national competition for young organists. It is hoped that the recounting of how so much has been accomplished in Atlanta may be of use to other chapters in planning for the future.

History of the Atlanta Chapter Endowment

For as long as current members can remember, there has been some type of special fund within the Atlanta Chapter. Initially, there was an interest in providing for recitals and student scholarships. Chapter members were encouraged to make gifts as memorials or to honor chapter members. The 1966 National Convention, which was organized by the chapter, resulted in a small surplus that boosted these efforts.

In 1992, the chapter hosted a second National Convention and, again, there was a surplus after the books were closed. A chapter endowment and investment committee was eventually formed to oversee the development and distribution of the funds. Because the chapter had grown in membership and enjoyed a multitude of recitals each year as part of its programming, the members elected to use these funds for scholarships, special musical events, and new music commissions. In other words, the proceeds from the investments could not be used to support the regular operating budget of the chapter. This is an important distinction that works well for the chapter. Some chapters may wish to designate the funds for operating or other expenses.

True to form, the 2007 Regional Convention, which was held in Atlanta, proved to be a success in every wav, and another surplus was added to the corpus of funds. Because the original funds seemed to be increasing and providing for the chapter, these recent funds were designated to be used as "seed money" for special projects such as Pipe Organ Encounters, conferences, conventions, and the like.

The Elizabeth Abbott Taylor Bequest

Elizabeth Abbott Taylor was an Atlanta native born in 1904. She lived in a two-story Victorian house in the historic Grant Park area of the city from age 18 to the time of her death at the age of 101. Her music degree was earned from Cox College and Conservatory in College Park, Ga., an institution that existed from 1842 to 1934. Mrs. Taylor began teaching piano upon her graduation and attracted students from all over the city.

Because she was so disciplined, she demanded much of her students and was able to bring out the potential in each of them. She lived what we today would term a frugal life and taught piano well into her eighth decade. In addition to teaching, Mrs. Taylor developed a career as an organist and choirmaster, serving several churches in the Atlanta area. She was a member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Peachtree Street in Atlanta.

At the time of her death in 2005, Mrs. Taylor had amassed a considerable amount of money.

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Financial Planning Leads to an Exciting New Competition: The Atlanta Ago Chapter's Story
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