The Ossian Everett Mills Music Mission
“Each one must make a supreme personal endeavor to elevate others to the place where they may enjoy all that is true, beautiful, and abiding. Our rights, our duties, our responsibilities, our interests, and our thoughts must be mutually helpful. This was the spirit of thoughtfulness to others even at the expense of his own time, effort, and strength, which found expression in our beloved first president.”
- From the 1928/1998 Memorial Service in honor of Ossian Everett Mills.
Over a century ago, the Sinfonia’s founder, Ossian Everett Mills, gave selflessly of his own time and effort to uplift his fellow man with music. At its January 1, 1999 meeting, the collegiate province representatives’ council approved the following resolution:
Whereas, Ossian Everett Mills, founder and first national president of the Sinfonia, established the practice of taking music to residents of the Boston city hospitals in the 1880’s and continued this charity for nearly three decades afterward; and
Whereas, The Sinfonia seeks to instill in its members an appreciation of music’s power as a tool for elevating others; and
Whereas, Such an appreciation is best instilled when men demonstrate the virtue of sacrifice by giving of their time, effort, and strength to take music to those less fortunate; and
Whereas, The collegiate province representatives’ council seeks to provide chapters of Phi Mu Alpha, Sinfonia with a project that will facilitate members in their efforts to uplift their fellow man and continue the beneficent work of the Sinfonia’s founder; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the collegiate province representatives’ council embraces the Ossian Everett Mills Music Mission as a worthwhile project; and
Further, That members of the council will actively encourage chapters in their respective provinces to take part in the project; and
Further, That the council encourages all Sinfonians to be missionaries of song in the name of the Sinfonia’s founder and first national president, Ossian Everett Mills.
By providing the opportunity for every chapter to become involved in musical outreach, the MMM hopes to create generations of Sinfonians who have experienced the personal fulfillment that comes from sacrificing one’s own time for the uplift of others and who understand their art as a means toward the betterment of humankind.
John A. Mongiovi
Chairman, Collegiate Province Representatives’ Council (1997-2000)
A Historical Perspective
Central to being a Sinfonian is the belief that the manly musician is one who loves music, not for the sake of music itself, but rather as a means to elevating others. Through the Mills Music Mission, dedicated Sinfonians exemplify this principle as acts of musical service. In keeping with Mills’ deep interest in the social and moral welfare of students, the MMM also instills a sense of social responsibility and charity in the Fraternity’s members. Each year, Sinfonians touch the lives of thousands through the MMM.
The MMM honors the memory of Sinfonia’s Founder, Ossian Everett Mills, by carrying on his work to uplift those less fortunate with music. Mills’ “Flower Mission,” was one of the largest and most well-known charities in Boston at the time, and is one of the first known organized efforts to improve the quality of patients’ lives with music. A modern day revival of the project, the Ossian Everett Mills Music Mission (MMM) is the Fraternity’s official national philanthropy.
By 1881 Mills had originated the idea of visiting the residents of the Boston hospitals on Easter and Christmas day, and he carried on this charity for many years (near his death in 1920). Most frequently he took the Flower Mission to the City and Homeopathic Hospitals. On occasions when more participants were available, two separate parties were formed, and visits were also made to Vincent Memorial Hospital, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. When two parties were available, the visit to the City Hospital was led by Ossian Mills and the other party was led at times by his brother, Clinton James Mills.
The number of participants in the Flower Mission varied from year to year, but Mills was typically accompanied by ten to twenty students from the New England Conservatory who provided musical entertainment in the form of vocal and instrumental solos (usually on violin, mandolin and guitar), and by the Euterpe Club of Boston, a small chamber ensemble which consisted of various combinations of mandolins, guitars, violin, cello and bells. Recitations were sometimes given, and the musical entertainment was always accompanied by the distribution of flowers, cards and good cheer.
The continuation of the Flower Mission was dependent upon the generosity of the public. Flowers that were used in the morning Easter services were collected from churches by Mills and his assistants, and many of the florists who were paid filled orders with an amount of flowers that “far exceeded the amount that the funds supplied would usually cover.” At one time, the party was reported to have distributed over fifty thousand flowers, enough to leave a generous cluster at nearly every hospital cot in the city. By 1895 it was written that Mills “has now only to announce his annual tour to receive as many flowers as he and his assistants can distribute in a whole day.” Over the years, his Flower Mission gained a reputation as one of the most generous and beautiful of Easter charities and was awaited in the hospitals with much expectancy. As one nurse remarked, “What would Easter be without Mr. Mills, the music and the flowers?”
Sinfonians are called to serve mankind through ideals and music, and the MMM is one means by which Sinfonians unite as a Brotherhood to fulfill this noble obligation. A unique force exists when music and love are combined to bring peace and comfort to those in need, and through the MMM Sinfonians gain first-hand knowledge of that powerful combination. The Sinfonian will find the MMM useful as a practical training ground whereby he may gain first-hand knowledge of that force, as he devotes himself to using it for the uplift of his fellow man.