Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Music, A Family Passion

After one month in my new role I am quickly learning that the mission and tradition of the Hormel Historic Home covers many areas but most specifically hospitality, music, and education.  Last Saturday I was fortunate to be a part of that mission by helping to host the first annual Harris Piano Competition.  This event was made possible by a financial gift from MarySue Hormel Harris who is the granddaughter of Ben Hormel, George’s youngest brother. 

I have gleaned from the little research I have been able to do that the Hormels were an incredibly musical family.  This interest in music was passed through the generations and MarySue is an accomplished pianist herself.  She generously supports the musical endeavors that the HHH sponsors and was thrilled that the Home would be sponsoring this contest. 

35 youth from Austin and the surrounding area shared their talent, and I was amazed by them all.  So much poise and composure was shown and I know that George and Lillian would have also been impressed.  The gorgeous grand piano that stands in the Hormel’s living room sounded glorious when played by such motivated and confident performers.  St. Olaf Lutheran Church and The Paramount shared their space and pianos with us as well so that we could have so many kids compete at the same time and I know those sites were also blessed with great performances.

Music was also a popular feature in the HHH during the time of the YWCA.  A February 9, 1928, article reports the festivities from a Membership Party held at the Y…
“In the afternoon Lorna Bluhm favored the company with two vocal solos, “Where Dreams Are Made” by Johnson, and “The Wind “ by Spross.   She was accompanied on the piano by Constance Becker.  William Alderson played two piano selections, “A Nocturne” by Slater and “To the Rising Sun” by Torjussen, and Mrs. Ray Pooler sang a vocal solo, “ Mignon”-d’Hardelo, accompanied by Mrs. Fred Rayman at the piano.  An evening program is also described in the article as was the social half hour following the program where the tables were decorated with “pink tapers in green candle holders with pink roses in a green glass bowl as a centerpiece”.

Although we didn’t adorn the House or the Paramount with candles and flowers we were entertained with wonderful music.  So the music mission is still very much alive at the HHH and will be continued for years to come.

Introduction of Holly Johnson

I know this article is meant to be a look into the past of our Austin, and I plan to hold to that pattern in the coming weeks.  However, for my first column I have decided to give you a little history on me-Holly Stover Johnson.

Although born in San Antonio, TX, I have been fortunate to live in several parts of the country.  At age 3 my parents moved my brother and I north and we settled in a small town called Neodesha, Kansas-go ahead, Google it.  I didn’t really appreciate life in the middle of “no where”, but I now look on small town life as an opportunity to really know people, to recognize the gifts in every individual, and to lift others up in true community.

My parents were small business owners in a place filled with many entrepreneurial-minded people.  I saw them work together to help a town in the middle of a wheat field thrive.  I saw a group of faithful energetic people work to offer arts programs, musical endeavors, and educational opportunities that have influenced my life greatly.

From Kansas I went to college in Boston and then in Indiana, and after graduating from Purdue I moved to another small town but this one was surrounded by corn fields-Austin, Minnesota.  After nearly 2 years I moved to Minneapolis to work for Hormel in a sales position.  I met my husband there and in 1998 we moved to Kansas City and then to Charlotte, NC.  We have now been back in Austin for 5 ½ years, and after all that moving, when people ask me where I am from, I am proud to say Austin, MN, Spamtown, USA.

So my journey has brought me here, to oversee the historic home of a small town business family.  Being surrounded by pictures of such an influential and giving family is humbling.  They started a business to benefit their family and ended up helping a whole town grow.  This beautiful facility has served many purposes during its 141 years of existence and all of them have benefitted Austin. And now I hope I can be a benefit to the organization by continuing the home’s tradition of hospitality, outreach and education while preserving and restoring the historical past.

Now that you know a little (ok, a lot) about me I hope you will stop by for a tour, or to introduce yourselves and share some of your memories