November 21, 2023

MSM Celebrates the Second Annual “Founder’s Day” on November 22

MSM Founder’s Day, held annually on November 22, was launched in 2022 by MSM President James Gandre to pay tribute to the achievements of Janet Daniels Schenck, the School’s founder and leader for over four decades.

“On the eve of our Thanksgiving celebrations, join with me in gratitude for a visionary leader,” invites President Gandre. In addition to celebrating Dr. Schenck’s birthday, the annual occasion honors her incredible achievement: in establishing MSM as a community music school and attracting other highly talented individuals to her cause, she oversaw MSM’s growth into a world-class music conservatory.

A Day of Gratitude at MSM

All members of the MSM Community — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors — are encouraged to mark this special day with acts of gratitude and community support.

President Gandre has asked each person to find their own personal way of embodying the spirit of Dr. Schenck, who wrote in her 1960 memoir, Adventure in Music: “No one knows better than I do that our School, or any school, is more than the efforts of any one person — it grows from the devotion and vision and hard work of a group of dedicated people — some contributing much and some little, but each leaving upon it the touch of [their] personality.”

Dr. Schenck’s life and career is highlighted with an extensive exhibit in the MSM Library. In addition to the main exhibit, two important figures in the School’s history and seminal individuals in her life have been given new stand-alone displays: Harold Bauer (Dr. Schenck’s teacher) and Dora Zaslavsky (her first protégé).

Harold Bauer and Dora Zaslavsky have their own new exhibits in the MSM Library, with historical materials from the Archives that illuminate their accomplishments and contributions to the School.

Dr. Schenck was an incredible force in music education and the communities she served. She was, as the New York Times wrote upon her death in 1976, “for many years a prominent figure in New York’s musical life.”

AWARD-WINNING VIDEO: A 13-minute mini-documentary tells the story of Dr. Schenck and the founding of MSM

Institutional Historian and Director of Archives John Blanchard, who created a video as part of our inaugural celebration last year that has won multiple media awards since its debut (more information about the honors here).

SLIDESHOW (use arrows or SWIPE IMAGES W/ CURSOR): photos from the Archives of Dr. Schenck and the School's first home on East 105th Street.

An Amazing Accomplishment by an Amazing Individual

Dr. Schenck developed a community music school at the Union Settlement House on East 104th Street between 1913 and 1917, which became an independent endeavor by the Spring of 1918.

Known as the Neighborhood Music School, it became Manhattan School of Music in 1938. Dr. Schenck brought Pablo Casals and Harold Bauer onboard as Advisors and rallied donors to raise funds. She saw a small community school grow to become a college in the 1940s; receive full accreditation by and membership in the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in the 1950s; and then outgrow its original home on the East Side, raising more money than any independent conservatory to relocate to MSM’s current campus on Claremont Avenue in the 1960s.

“Dr. Schenck championed so much in a time of United States history during which women were not granted the right to vote, making her accomplishments that much more meaningful and impressive,” says President Gandre.

More details on this central figure in MSM’s history can be found here on our website.

A scale-size architectural model of MSM's first home on East 105th Street on exhibit in the School's library

If you have questions about this inaugural tradition, wish to organize an activity in Dr. Schenck’s honor, or would like to share how you plan to mark this occasion, please be in touch with John Blanchard (MM ’89), Institutional Historian and Director of Archives, at

painting of woman in front of piano
A 1970 painting by John Koch of Dr. Schenck, part of Founder’s Day exhibit in the Library

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