Music stimulates and it soothes. It entertains and it enriches. It invigorates and it inspires. As a traditional medium for communication and a mainstay of IBM's corporate culture, music has done all that -- and more -- from the very earliest days of the company.
Back in 1915, IBM's predecessor, the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, formed a five-man band to perform at a company convention in Endicott, N.Y. That small acorn -- created at the suggestion of C-T-R's general manager, Thomas J. Watson, was formally organized the following year as the International Time Recording Company Concert Band (ITR was one of the major C-T-R units), with 32 members.
Over the following years, Endicott spawned a variety of other employee musical groups -- an orchestra, singing groups for men, for women, for men and women, even for children -- to entertain employees and the general public.
Soon, singing and instrumental performances spread to other IBM sites and groups. And many an IBM meeting would be enlivened with the voices of employees singing various "fellowship songs" -- such as "Ever Onward" (the IBM rally song) -- published in Songs Of The IBM, the official company song book.
These admittedly amateur IBM efforts were complemented from time to time with the impressive performances of well-known professional musicians.
For example, in 1939, the acclaimed Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Eugene Ormandy, performed the new IBM anthem -- "Hail to the IBM" -- at IBM Day at the New York World's Fair. And in the 1940s, IBM brought to the public stirring performances of such marquee artists as Lily Pons of the Metropolitan Opera and James Melton of the Chicago Opera Company.
As social conventions changed in more recent years, IBMers put away the song book, the IBM Band played its last notes and outdoor IBM concerts went the way of fedoras, rumble seats and hula hoops. But you can still hear vibrant musical productions in some IBM meetings, where, for example, up-tempo tunes are played as "walk-in music" to rev up participants as they enter the "main tent" (IBM lingo for auditorium). And in other special meetings, such as employee recognition events, professional musicians and singers often take to the stage to entertain and delight the audience.
Although our times are far different today than when the members of the IBM Band first donned their marching uniforms nearly 90 years ago, the music they played remains timeless. It can still stimulate, soothe, entertain, enrich, invigorate and inspire. And now, many decades later, you can discover some of that for yourself by visiting the IBM Music Music reference room.