The Founders of AIMS devoted many years of personal effort to make the programs of the American Institute of Musical Studies available to young musicians. There were five Founders although many others made invaluable contributions to the program in the early years. Richard Owens served as Executive Director from 1969 to 1984 and Nora Sands, Irma Cooper, Cornelius Eberhardt and Harold Heiberg each served more than 35 years.
The concept of a summer course of study for singers is attributed to Richard Owens and his wife, Nora Sands. Richard and Irma Cooper were singing in Germany and became acquainted with each other and with Cornelius Eberhardt. Although Richard and Irma had returned to the USA to assume positions as professors of voice, Richard at Baylor University and Irma at The Ohio State University, the idea of a summer program continued to be compelling and became a passion they wanted to pursue.