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History of the Guilds of The Santa Fe Opera, Inc.

1964 - We’re off and running as
New Mexico Opera Guild, Inc. (Initially, Guild, Inc.)

The initial meeting of the Board of “New Mexico Opera Guild, Inc.” was held April 8, 1964, in Room 345 of La Fonda in Santa Fe. It was called to order by Mr. William Hunker, President of the Board of the Opera Association of New Mexico, “for the purpose of electing officers and any other urgent business.” Thirteen members were present, and from the list of board members, it is apparent there were four functioning Guilds at that time: Albuquerque, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Taos.1 (See Footnotes below)

Unanimously elected, after being individually nominated from the floor were:
     President: Mrs. John J. Dempsey
     First Vice President: Mrs. Owen Marron
     Second Vice President: Mrs. Eliu Romero
     Secretary: Mrs. Lois Law
     Assistant Secretary: Mrs. Edward Goodrich
     Treasurer: Mrs. B. R. Suydam
     Assistant Treasurer: Mrs. John E. Dougherty

After the election of Officers, there was one item of business: that concerning an all-Guilds after-opera party on opening night July 1st, at the Sombra of the Crosby Ranch.

There followed four more meetings of the Board in 1964. In May, the second was held in the Conference Room of the First National Bank of Santa Fe, and this room, with another at the Cordova Road Branch, were to become the usual meeting places until January 1975. A publicity chairman, Sam Niefeld, was appointed, and there was further discussion of the first opening night party; the liquor license previously used by the Opera Ranch was transferred to Guild, Inc.2 A bank account for Guild, Inc. was opened at this time. It was authorized that the Minutes of each meeting be reproduced, and one copy sent .to each of the Guild board members, and one to the Board of the Opera Association. Mr. John Crosby presented four reasons for the formation of Guild, Inc.:

  1. “Protection for the membership respective to Internal Revenue and exemptions for membership fees;
  2. Affiliation with Metropolitan Opera Guild was not possible for Guilds with less than 500 members, and by combining all Guilds, the numbers would meet the Metropolitan requirement as well as lending influence for membership;
  3. General development of the local Guilds could be more satisfactorily promoted, particularly by transferring the responsibility of collecting donations from the respective regions to that particular region instead of by the Opera Association;
  4. The combined funds of all local Guilds into one Guild Fund is much more persuasive with foundations for grants, such as the Ford Foundation which affords the New Mexico Opera Association a permanent secretary and business manager for the first time.”

The next meeting was called in September. Most notable was the presentation of the first Treasurer’s Report; receipts from three guilds totaled $540. A decision was made to make the Opening Night party an annual event. Mr. Crosby requested an annual report from each of the four guilds (between February and April of 1965), noting number of memberships, funds sent to the Association, the nature of fund-raising activities, and expense and donations for the Opera for Youth program. Mr. Crosby further kindly offered the use of talent of four to six artists, to further local interest, and increase guild memberships and donations. Guild reports mentioned memberships, i.e., Santa Fe 924 members, and 495 in Los Alamos, and activities: Los Alamos gave a party for the opera staff, and offered four Opera for Youth lectures; Albuquerque held a membership reception. These September minutes also contain a discussion of Guild finances, and it can only be presumptively interpreted how these were handled. In these early days, the Guilds held fund drives for the Association in their locales, usually in January and February. Later, sometimes in April, a membership reception was held to initiate that year’s funding for each Guild. Collections and donations for memberships were deposited directly to the treasurer of the Opera Association of New Mexico; for instance, in September it was reported that Santa Fe Guild had collected $10,046, and Los Alamos had sent $2,450 to the Association. In the first Treasurer’s Report of Guild, Inc. mentioned above (Sept. 9, 1964). $540 was shown as received from Guild chapters, so apparently the Guilds were making larger deposits to the Association, and token amounts to Guild, Inc. And, a letter from John Crosby, dated October 6, 1964 reported total Guild gifts to the Opera through September 30 of $20,690.53, “representing over $1,300 over the same period of 1963.”

And at the next regular meeting, In October, the treasurer reported $2,171.32 transferred to the Opera Association from Guild, Inc., leaving a balance of $100.00. (An amusing typographical error was later corrected: the original read $21,171.32 — prescient were we!) Amendments were read and incorporated in the by-laws, and a nominating committee was appointed by the President. Each president of the four guild units was asked to estimate .the probable income for 1965; these were Santa Fe $9,000, Albuquerque $9,000, Los Alamos $2,600, and Taos $500, totaling $21,100.00. This is the first mention of prospective goals in the minutes. By this early date, Guild membership had become impressive: Taos had 80 members, Albuquerqu 640, Santa Fe 940, and Los Alamos 495; total 2,140.3

The first annual meeting was called on November 12, 1964. After previous attendance of 11 to 13 members, this one attracted 27. 1964 Guild receipts totaled $2,440. Fund-raisers were imaginative and successful; these will be further reported in the section of this History on Fund-Raising activities. There were four Opera for Youth performances. Mr. Crosby thanked the Guilds for their support and contributions, and reported on the 1965 repertory. Mrs. Mayer, President of the Opera Association, explained the responsibilities of the Boards, and -their relationship to each other. Members of the 1965 Board of Directors were elected by acclamation, as were the nominees for Guild, Inc. officers.

Summary of the first year of New Mexico Opera Guild, Inc.
It is interesting to review the minutes of the first year of Guild, Inc., and it seems important to report them in some detail. It was a year of such enthusiasm, such promise. Four Guilds suddenly meant a Guild, Inc. of 2,140 members; from no treasury, in a few months over $2,440 was transferred to the Opera. Parties were held to introduce the communities to the Santa Fe Opera, Youth Opera performances were already established, and annual reports were composed. A lively board was functioning in an orderly fashion — they knew what they were about! Undoubtedly 1965 would surpass these accomplishments.

Continue to The 1960s


  1. A quotation from an unidentified, undated page: “The New Mexico Opera Guild, Inc. was incorporated on the 9th of October, 1963. The first two Guilds were in Los Alamos and Santa Fe (1957). With the formation of Guilds in Albuquerque and Taos in the next few years, a need for closer ties and communication between each Guild chapter was felt. So, NMOGI was formed.”
  2. By early 1965, the liquor license was transferred back to the State Liquor Control Board, so
    Guild, Inc. could maintain a tax-exempt status.
  3. These tallies continued to increase, until in a short while there were over 3,000 members reported. It appears that at least till the early 1970’s, a different counting system was employed; not until then was the arrangement admitted in the minutes. In June 1971, Albuquerque reported “804 members: 32 patron, 97 angel, 243 family, 30 single” - these total only 402 if read literally, hence there was fancy footwork to achieve 804! Further, in May 1971, Santa Fe “had 857 members, counting singles as 1, and family as 2.” And Las Vegas reported “40 members, representing a total of 55± persons,” this group probably counting as we do now.