History

Virtual Yearbooks: 1940s

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This information is arranged by year and includes MSM historical and other highlights of New York City’s music history.

1940

flyer
The Concert and Placement Bureau (placement office) opens in May “to secure engagements for our gifted students so that they may have the encouragement and discipline of frequent appearances.”

The School has 525 students and a faculty of 58.

man at piano, man and woman watching

Appearing in recital at the School are Harold Bauer (pictured at the piano); Rudolf Serkin; the two-piano duo of Rudolph Gruen (pictured, middle) and Frances Hall; and one of the School’s first graduates, Dora Zaslavsky (pictured standing).

Alumnus Leander Dell’Anno joins the faculty, where he teaches piano and theory until 1975. In 1960 he became coordinator of the piano minor department and also acted as student advisor in the 1970s.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Bela Bartók moves to New York from Hungary.
  • Virgil Thomson becomes a music critic for the New York Herald-Tribune.
  • Higher and Higher, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart, opens with Jack Haley and Marta Eggerth at the Shubert Theater (84 performances).
  • Texaco begins sponsorship of the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday afternoon broadcasts, with Ezio Pinza and Licia Albanese in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.
  • Abbey Simon (to later join the piano faculty) receives the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Award.

1941

man conducting orchestra
Hugo Kortschak

Postgraduate department is formed. Courses are offered in conducting by Hugo Kortschak (pictured above); in ensemble by Harris Danziger, Dora Zaslavsky, and by Oliver Edel, Julius Shaier, and Rachmael Weinstock of the Roth Quartet; in scoring, arranging, fugue, and composition by Vittorio Giannini; and advanced dictation, ear-training, analysis, score reading, and keyboard harmony by Dr. Howard Murphy (pictured below).

man teaching students in classroom

Howard Murphy

program from opera performance
Cover and title page from a December 5th performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni by the Metropolitan Opera, which benefited the School. Conducted by Bruno Walter, the cast includes Ezio Pinza (Giovanni), Rose Bampton (Donna Anna), and Bidu Sayao (Zerlina).

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Lady in the Dark, music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, opens with Gertrude Lawrence and New York-born Danny Kaye at the Alvin Theater (162 performances).
  • Billy Strayhorn composes “Take the A Train.”

1942

The School awards its first postgraduate diploma.

Conductor Leopold Stokowski attends a Manhattan School of Music orchestral concert. A communiqué from Janet Schenck to the members of the School’s orchestra following a concert mentions “all the very complimentary things Mr. Stokowski had to say … how delighted Mr. Stokowski was and that he could not say enough about the performance, the phrasing, and Mr. Kortschak’s leadership. He was also much interested in Miss [faculty member and alumna Ludmila] Ulehla’s composition.”

Monthly concerts for children are inaugurated at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Charlie Parker joins Earl Hines band, alongside Dizzy Gillespie.
  • 12-year-old Lorin Maazel conducts the New York Philharmonic.
  • Aaron Copland’s Rodeo, with Harlem-born dancer Agnes de Mille, debuts.
  • Steinway & Sons retools its factory to begin producing gliders for the U.S. Air Force, some of which are used on D-Day.

1943

man at piano speaking with voice students

Friedrich Schorr (seated at piano), having just retired from twenty years at the Metropolitan Opera and with a great European tradition behind him, takes over the vocal department and Opera Workshop.

Amendment to the charter authorizes the School to grant the bachelor of music degree.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Bela Bartók composes Concerto for Orchestra, a commission from the Serge Koussevitsky Foundation.
  • Isaac Stern, 22, makes Carnegie Hall debut.
  • Duke Ellington, 44, makes Carnegie Hall debut.
  • New York City Opera founded, debuts with Puccini’s Tosca at City Center.
  • Oklahoma by Rodgers and Hammerstein, choreography by Agnes de Mille, starring Alfred Drake, Celeste Holm, and Howard da Silva, opens at the St. James Theater (2,212 performances).
  • First authentic Afro-Cuban jazz tune, Tanga, by Mario Bauzá, is recorded by Machito and the Afro-Cubans.
  • Leonard Bernstein, 25, makes conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic, substituting for Bruno Walter, at Carnegie Hall.

1944

Mr. Bertram Borden, a Trustee of MSM, gives a large endowed gift to the School in memory of his wife, who had also been a Trustee. Given through the Mary Owen Borden Memorial Foundation, it was the largest single gift the School had received up to that time.

December 1 — Pianist Harold Bauer plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the Senior Orchestra under the direction of Hugo Kortschak.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Ned Rorem (former MSM faculty) begins studies with Virgil Thompson.
  • Miles Davis moves to NYC.
  • New York jazz singer William Clarence “Billy” Eckstine forms big band playing new “bebop” jazz.
  • Sarah Vaughan, 20, records “I’ll Wait and Pray” with the Billy Eckstine big band.
  • Pianist Leon Fleisher, 16, debuts with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Pierre Monteux at Carnegie Hall.
  • National Negro Opera Company brings Verdi’s La Traviata to Madison Square Garden.
  • Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis premieres, conducted by Artur Rodzinsky.

1945

man teaching piano students

June 1 — Janet D. Schenck, the School’s director and founder, confers the degree of Bachelor of Music at Manhattan School of Music for the first time. She is assisted by Dr. Harold Bauer (pictured above, teaching at MSM).

Special classes are arranged to help the returning veterans. The School is one of two music schools in New York City, outside the universities, qualified by the government to accept returning veterans both under Public Law 346 (G.I. Bill of Rights) and Public Law 16 (Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Law).

Janet Schenck meets several times with NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. “His interest in the school had been significant,” writes Mrs. Schenck.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Up in Central Park, music by Sigmund Romberg, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, opens at the Century Theater (504 performances).
  • New York Philharmonic joins in mourning President Roosevelt’s death by cancelling its concert, April 13.
  • Carousel by Rodgers and Hammerstein opens at the Majestic Theater (890 performances).

1946

man playing piano

John Lewis

John Lewis begins work toward a Bachelor of Music degree, studying theory, and will go on to earn a Master of Music degree in 1953. This same year, he joins Dizzy Gillespie’s big band and premieres his “Toccata for Trumpet” at Carnegie Hall in 1947. Lewis later works with Miles Davis’s nonet and founds the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Juilliard String Quartet is founded: Robert Mann (former MSM faculty) and Robert Koff violins; Raphael Hillyer, viola; Arthur Winograd, cello.
  • Annie Get Your Gun by Irving Berlin opens at the Imperial Theater with Ethel Merman, includes “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (1,147 performances).
  • Virgil Fox begins 19-year tenure as organist at Riverside Church.

1947

Composer Ludmila Ulehla completes her Bachelor of Music degree and joins the faculty, where she teaches until 2007.

Amendment to the charter authorizes the School to confer the master of music degree.

The School has 663 students.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Street Scene by Kurt Weill premieres (Adelphi Theater); Kurt Weill receives first TONY Award for best original score.
  • Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday appear at Carnegie Hall.
  • Brigadoon by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick “Fritz” Lowe opens at the Ziegfeld Theater (581 performances).
  • Brooklyn-born Lena Horne, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, and Ella Fitzgerald make Carnegie Hall debuts.
  • The Mother of Us All, music by Virgil Thomson with libretto by Gertrude Stein, premieres at Columbia University.

1948

graduating class in gowns

Class of 1948 (photo courtesy of Dr. Marilyn Teitler Tyler, BM ’48 / MM ’49 — top row, fourth from right)

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • George Rochberg awarded the George Gershwin Award for Overture in C.
  • Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Orpheus, choreography by George Balanchine, opens at City Center.
  • Kiss Me Kate by Cole Porter opens at the New Century Theater (1,077 performances).

1949

man teaching class

Nicholas Granitto joins the Academic Faculty where he teaches Italian and French until retiring in 1989.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Vladimir Horowitz premieres Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, op. 26.
  • Miles Davis records “Birth of Cool”; musicians include pianist John Lewis (MSM alumnus).
  • Pianist George Shearing debuts “Lullabye of Birdland.”
  • Robert Sirota (former MSM president) born in NYC, October 13.
  • Birdland opens with saxophonist Charlie Parker as headliner (on Broadway).

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