By William Smith
The Bart Howard Foundation will be giving out four $1,000 scholarships this year, and the philanthropic organization is promoting those educational boons with a country music concert May 5 at the Capitol Theater.
The scholarships, partially made possible by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) will be awarded to four local, musically-inclined students.
The foundation, which is separate from the Bart Howard Lounge at the Des Moines County Heritage Center, is dedicated to preserving Howard’s memory by promoting what he loved best — music.
The Bart Howard Lounge is also dedicated to this goal. For the past decade or so, it has sat on the lower level of the Heritage Museum.
The meeting space and concert venue are modeled after a typical, small, New York City lounge.
Providing seating for up to 55 guests, the Bart Howard Lounge has hosted everything from jazz performances to cabaret and music bingo.
Howard was a Burlington native and songwriter most famous for penning the song “Fly Me to the Moon,” which has been recorded by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Ella Fitzgerald.
“He wrote a lot of songs for Frank Sinatra,” said Bart Howard Foundation president Judy Stevens.
Burlington resident Bob McCannon, a former member of the Bart Howard Foundation, met with Howard a few times before the musician’s death.
McCannon was instrumental in not only convincing Howard to endorse a museum/performance venue in Burlington but to donate $250,000 to the project.
McCannon visited Howard several times at his New York home, and the two men became friends. Despite that, Howard wasn’t interested in any kind of facility or tribute that venerated him.
Eventually, McCannon was able to convince him.
He remembers Howard slowly putting his head in his hands when they discussed it, and McCannon thought for sure he had lost him.
But Howard said “yes.” He initially agreed to donate $100,000.
After his passing, Howard’s estate and his partner Bud Fowler donated a quarter of a million dollars instead — as well as memorabilia from his life.
“This is my opinion. But I think it was a time in his life when he realized he wasn’t very well anymore. He was making arrangements, and I offered an arrangement situation. I think that was a relief to him,” McCannon said.
Howard began his career as an accompanist at the age of 16 and played for Mabel Mercer, Johnny Mathis, and Eartha Kitt.
“Fly Me to the Moon” was first sung in 1954 by Felicia Sanders at the Blue Angel nightclub in Manhattan, which the Bart Howard Lounge is modeled.
Howard died Feb. 21, 2004, at age 88, in Carmel, New York.