MSM History

Virtual Yearbooks: 1990s

Created with Sketch.

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


man at graduation lectern

May — Jazz legend Max Roach (Undergraduate ’52) is given an honorary doctorate at Commencement.

stage full of singers in an opera

December — The John Brownlee Opera Theatre presents the American Premiere of Cornet Christoph Rilke’s Song of Love and Death by Siegfried Matthus. John Rockwell of the New York Times wrote: “Manhattan School has done the opera proud. The musical performance, sung in Bernard Jacobson’s sure translation, was fully professional.”

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Steve Reich receives Grammy for Best Contemporary Composition for Different Trains, recorded by Kronos Quartet on Nonesuch label.
  • Joan Tower is first woman awarded Grawemeyer Award in Composition.
  • Evgeny Kissin gives New York debut.
  • Dawn Upshaw (MSM alumna) wins a Grammy Award for her recording Knoxville – Summer of 1915 (Music of Barber, Menotti, Harbison, Stravinsky).


man with violin teaching student

Graduate Program in Orchestral Performance begins, the first of it kind in North America. It offers intensive study with members of prominent area ensembles. Founding members include New York Philharmonic concert master Glenn Dicterow (pictured) and principal oboist Joseph Robinson.

Summer — Manhattan School of Music founds Professional Musical Theater Workshop, Paul Gemignani, Director.

various photos of a woman teaching voice

November — Soprano Birgit Nilsson is honored with a gala concert celebrating her years of master classes at the School. Guest performers include Sherrill Milnes and several luminary alumni. George Manahan (Class of 1976) leads the School’s Symphony.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Kurt Masur appointed conductor of New York Philharmonic.
  • Lionel Hampton, age 82, records live with his Golden Men at Blue Note.
  • Carnegie Hall celebrates 100th birthday.
  • Mario Bauzá comes out of retirement to record his suite Tanga, orchestrated by Chico O’Farill, with Bobby Sanabria (current MSM faculty) on drums, and receives Grammy nomination.
  • Susan Graham (MSM alumna) makes her debut with the Metropolitan Opera on September 26, as Dorabella in Così fan tutte. Graham will go on to give 188 performances with the company.


woman with black hair

Marta Casals Istomin, formerly artistic director of the Kennedy Center, becomes president (president until 2005).

Under the guidance of Carolyn Marlow, the first American Musical Theater Ensemble production, Love Songs and Alka Selzer, is performed.

Composer John Corigliano (Class of 1963) receives an honorary doctorate.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Ghosts of Versailles, commissioned from John Corigliano (MSM alumnus) for the Metropolitan Opera’s centenary. The cast includes Lauren Flanigan (MSM alumna).
  • Phillip Glass’s opera The Voyage premiered at Metropolitan Opera to mark the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas.
  • Lauren Flanigan (MSM alumna) makes headlines, substituting for an ill Aprile Millo in Verdi’s I Lombardi at the Metropolitan Opera. She performs wiih no stage rehearsal, opposite Luciano Pavarotti, in an internationally televised broadcast.
  • The AIDS Quilt Songbook premiered on July 4 at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, organized by William Parker “responding to the stigma surrounding, ignorance of, and grief caused by the spread of HIV/AIDS.” Performers included Sanford Sylvan (MSM alumnus), John Musto (MSM alumnus), Ned Rorem (former MSM faculty), and David Krakaer (MSM faculty). Of the songs written for the project was “Walt Whitman in 1989” by Chris DeBlasio (MSM alumnus).


woman teaching a voice student in front of piano

Alumna Dawn Upshaw (MM ’84) gives a master class (pictured her with mezzo-soprano Patricia Cay) in Borden Auditorium on November 4.

The School celebrates its 75th anniversary.

The School has 875 students, having admitted 39% of 1,725 applicants. The preparatory division has 470 students.

man teaching a violin student

A special performance program is inaugurated in the fall with Pinchas Zukerman (pictured here in an MSM master class), offering an intensive two-year course of study for exceptionally gifted violinists and violists.

Jazz Orchestra features guest artists Wynton Marsalis, Priscilla Baskerville (Class of 1974), and Jon Hendricks, in a performance of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Tania León becomes Music Advisor to Kurt Masur and New York Philharmonic.
  • Luciano Pavarotti gives concert on Great Lawn in Central Park, drawing an audience of more than 250,000.
  • “A Day Without Art” is held on December 1: the lights on Broadway, the Empire State Building, and all the bridges from Manhattan are dimmed in memory of those who have died from AIDS.
  • Mayor David Dinkins renames the corner of Broadway and 65th Street “Leonard Bernstein Place.”


stage of musicians taking bows

May 16 — The culminating event of the seventy-fifth-anniversary season features Kurt Masur conducting the Manhattan School of Music Symphony in a gala concert. The concert includes the world premiere of Manhattan Concerto by noted German composer Siegfried Matthus, commissioned by the School for its anniversary. After intermission, the School confers an honorary doctorate upon Maestro Masur.

The Augustine Guitar Series moves to Manhattan School of Music and presents recitals by David Russell, Eduardo Fernandez, and Julian Bream in its first year.

New York Wind Soloists (later renamed Windscape) becomes an ensemble in residence.

December — The Opera Theatre presents Miss Julie by Ned Rorem. A live, premiere recording is later released (Newport Classics label).

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Beverly Sills elected Chairman of the Board of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the first woman and first professional musician to hold this position.
  • A Pulitzer Prize is awarded Gunther Schuller (MSM Prep alumnus, former faculty) for his Of Reminiscences and Reflections.


two men and a woman
Wynton Marsalis (pictured with President Marta Istomin and Dean Richard E. Adams ’61) is awarded an honorary doctorate.

program from a white house performance

Students travel to Washington, D.C., to perform with soloist David Sanborn at the White House for President and Mrs. Clinton.

Jazz drummer Elvin Jones gives a master class in Borden Auditorium.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Max Roach (MSM alumnus) is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
  • Ellen Taaffe Zwilich becomes first occupant of Carnegie Hall’s Composer’s Chair and creates the “Making Music” concert series, focusing on living composers.
  • George Manahan (BM ’73 / MM ’76) is appointed Music Director of New York City Opera.


The legacy left by Raphael Bronstein (violin faculty from 1950–1988) is celebrated in John C. Borden Auditorium on February 11 by alumni, faculty, friends, and colleagues. The gala concert, organized by the Alumni Affairs office, establishes an award given each year at commencement.

man in suit and tie

Jazz pianist and composer John Lewis (Class of 1953) is given an honorary doctorate.

A Gala Benefit Concert is held on October 4. Guest artists include Pinchas Zukerman, Lauren Flanigan (Class of 1984), and John Lewis (Class of 1953).

Videoconferencing begins at Manhattan School of Music on November 1 — esteemed French composer Henri Dutilleux is broadcast live from Paris into Borden Auditorium at a concert which features the New York premiere of his composition, Timbres, espace, mouvement. A live international question and answer session allows students and audience members to ask Maestro Dutilleux about his music, life, and compositional process.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Paul Kellogg is appointed general and artistic director of New York City Opera.
  • Jonathan Larson’s Rent premieres at the Nederlander Theater (runs for 5,075+ performances).
  • Jorge Caballero (MSM alumnus) receives the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Guitar Award.


people at a graduation watching a video screen

May 18 — A second transatlantic videoconference enables the School to bestow concurrent honorary doctoral degrees on Mstislav Rostropovich (who is in France) and Clark Terry (who is in New York City). President Istomin confers the honors upon both musicians and gives her annual commencement greeting from France.

Four recordings of the School’s opera productions are released on CD: Rorem’s Miss Julie, Donizetti’s Il campanello di notte, Britten’s Albert Herring, and Daniel Catán’s Rappaccini’s Daughter.

Summer — Jazz Orchestra embarks on a European tour to the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland.

A memorial concert is held in November honoring Lillian Fuchs (who joined the faculty in 1962), organized by the Alumni Affairs office. It inaugurates an annual chamber music concert series in her name.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • The Lion King, music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice, directed by Julie Taymor, opens at the New Amsterdam Theater (4,450 + performances).


March — A performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 is given at The Riverside Church. A CD (on Titanic) and later a DVD (on VAI) are released. The American Record Guide proclaims: “… the performance is great and can stand proudly with the best of its rivals in the recorded catalog.”

a group of men and women in formal attire

A benefit concert for MSM’s scholarship fund is held. Featured performers (pictured) are accomanpied by faculty member Warren Jones and include current students, as well as bass James Morris, mezzo and alumna Susan Quittmeyer (Class of 1978), mezzo Marilyn Horne, and soprano Ruth Ann Swenson.

man playing a string bass

Alumnus Ron Carter

Commencement: Ludmila Ulehla (Class of 1947) receives the first Presidential Award for Distinguished Service for her 50 years of teaching excellence. Soprano Dawn Upshaw (Class of 1985) and jazz bassist Ron Carter (Class of 1961), given honorary doctorates. Mr. Carter is pictured here outside Borden Auditorium.

group of people on stage

President Marta Casals Istomin is Grand Marshall of the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade held on June 14 on Fifth Avenue in New York City. She is pictured here, front row / fourth from the right, next to Tito Puente and with other dignitaries.

A daylong, interdisciplinary symposium on Dmitri Shostakovich is held in September in conjunction with the Harriman Institute of Columbia University. Yuri Temirkanov leads a reading of Shostakovish’s 10th symphony with student orchestral musicians.

Six principal musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra lead sectional rehearsals of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the School’s Symphony. A full orchestra rehearsal of the work, conducted by Graziella Contratto, follows.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Aaron Jay Kernis (BM ’81) receives Pulitzer Prize for second string quartet, musica instrumentalis, premiered on January 10 at Merkin Concert Hall.
  • New York City Board of Education establishes the JD Award, named for MSM faculty member and alumnus Justin DiCioccio (MM ’71), to be awarded annually for outstanding service to music in NYC schools.


woman at graduation lectern

Dianne Danese-Flagello (Class of 1952), director of the preparatory division for 25 years, receives an honorary doctorate.

group of young children and two adults

July 5 — The Manhattan School of Music Summer Music Camp opens exclusively for public school students in grades 5 through 8 from the five boroughs, created in association with the NYC Dept. of Education and the ASCAP Foundation. (Campers are pictured here with visiting artists, the recording duo Ashford and Simpson.)

Second annual interdisciplinary symposium on significant composers is held on October 12 to examine the music of Johannes Brahms. Kurt Masur (pictured), music director of the New York Philharmonic, leads the Manhattan School of Music Symphony in a reading of Brahms’s Symphony No. 1.

Justin DiCioccio (Class of 1971) is appointed chair of the Jazz Department.

cd cover

December — The Opera Theatre presents A Death in the Family by William Mayer. A live, premiere recording is later released (Albany label).

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • New York composer John Corigliano (MSM alumnus, former faculty) wins an Academy Award for Original Music Score for The Red Violin.
  • John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby premieres at the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by James Levine, with MSM alumnae Dawn Upshaw ’84 and Susan Graham ’87 in leading roles.

Do you have pictures or memories that you’d like to share? Please email us here.

    Email This Page

    Email Message

    Page Reference
    (will be sent in email)