The Abilene Philharmonic’s young artist competition honors Nelda Hodges (October 14, 1935 – March 10, 2016) and her love of young people and music. Author Johnnie Lou Boyd wrote about the competition and its generous benefactors in July of 2015.
Nelda Hodges moves like the strains of beautiful symphonic music. Grace and dignity surround her. Music permeates her life. She is one special lady who has made footprints in the sands of time by giving from her generous heart, loving spirit, and creative mind. Many people and organizations have been touched by her, but none more than the Abilene Philharmonic.
Growing up in the community of Miles, in Runnels County, her love for music was encouraged in school and at home. She remembers, during her growing-up years, learning to play on the family piano, and she remembers one hour every Sunday afternoon was set aside for the family to listen to classical music on the radio program, “The Longines Symphonette Hour” sponsored by the Longines Watch Company.
Nelda envisioned herself someday sitting in the audience actually watching the musicians perform – not just listening on the radio. Her vision became a reality when she subsequently moved to Abilene in 1952, and married Eddie Hodges. Together they have been among the earliest and strongest supporters of the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra.
Being in the audience wasn’t enough…she wanted to do her part in making sure the Abilene Philharmonic is financially sound, community-relevant, and educationally inspiring. She has done this in so many ways that her footprints, and Eddie’s, are all over its vibrant history. Both she and Eddie have served on the Philharmonic board (Eddie was president of the Board in 95-96). They served on the Philharmonic Foundation board (Eddie has helped guide its financial strength). Nelda has been active in Guild activities, serving as president, treasurer, student concert chair, ball co-chair, ball adviser and on the strategic planning committee, among many other duties and roles.
Nelda and Eddie raised their four children to love music and be involved in the Orchestra’s programs. Her children, Charisse, Michelle, Suzette and Eddie, Jr., all attest to the fact that they grew up with an appreciation for music and the arts, and, in turn, the grandchildren have followed suit. The three daughters became Tempoettes, a forerunner to today’s Belles. And Eddie, Jr., was always a willing helper in the Hodges’ Philharmonic projects.
Nelda’s move to Abilene was sandwiched in between the founding of the orchestra in 1951 and the establishment of the Guild in 1953. Nelda’s and Eddie’s footprints began appearing shortly after their marriage on the orchestra, the Guild, and later the Foundation. Nelda has been involved in every phase of the Guild, especially mindful of the impact of the student oriented programs. The footprints made deep imprints in significant ways through innovative leadership, strong financial support, and as enthusiastic volunteers.
Nelda became an early member of the Texas Association of Symphony Orchestras (TASO) founded in 1956 and made up of volunteers from 32 member orchestras. She co-chaired, with Joy Ramsey, the first TASO state conference held in Abilene in the 1990s. A decade later, in 2009, she stepped up to the plate again, much to the appreciation of her colleagues, and again co-chaired, with Judy Miller, the second TASO state conference held in Abilene…a big job, a big deal, and a big success! Naturally, she suggested the conference theme, “For the Love of Music”.
Nelda was a TASO Board member when the president of TASO, Juanita Miller, began a student music competition. This inspired Eddie Hodges to begin toying with the idea of an endowment named for his wife to benefit the musical ambitions of young people in the Abilene area. Thus, “The Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition Endowment” was established.
All Nelda’s efforts on behalf of the Abilene Philharmonic were rewarded when she was chosen as Grande Dame of the Gold Medallion Ball in 2009. Husband Eddie was the Ball’s Noble Gold IV, sponsored by the Guild. Typically, she was surprised and humbled by this honor. One of her duties was to choose the first song to be played at the Ball. She chose “In the Mood” to get the ball going on a quick jitterbug number, she explained.
Nelda’s volunteering does not stop with the Abilene Philharmonic. She is a Junior League sustaining member, served on the Paramount Theatre and hospice boards, was President of the 20th Century Study Club (90-91), and active at First Methodist Church, also working at state and national levels of the Methodist Church. She, Eddie and others were instrumental in bringing Young Life, a faith-based youth organization, to the Abilene Area. But near and dear to her heart is the Eddie and Nelda Hodges Foundation which has helped many worthy causes during the past two decades.
It is appropriate that this elegant woman’s love for music and youth come together in such an inspiring and rewarding way as the Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition.