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May 30, 2018

Celebrating the MSM Centennial: Our History, Illuminated

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by John K. Blanchard (MM ’89)
MSM Institutional Historian & Director of Archives

As we prepare to celebrate the School’s Centennial in the 2018–19 season, we are finding ways to tell our story more fully and vividly than ever before.

With the discovery of previously unknown artifacts and the acquisition of troves of film negatives from freelance photographers, you will now be able to experience visually many events that you had only read or heard about.

Aaron Copland with MSM students after a 1968 coaching of his Sextet

Many materials and photos that have been buried in crumbling boxes and scrapbooks for decades, are just now seeing the light of day.

MSM Institutional Historian & Chief Archivist

In the History section of the School’s newly redesigned website, we have recently added photos, scanned documents, and other material, greatly expanding our documentation of the breadth of the School’s legacy of music in New York and music education throughout the world.

Our Founder

Most alumni never had the chance to meet Janet Daniels Schenck (she died in 1976) or to experience firsthand her leadership and her immense concern for the welfare of each and every student who attended the school that she founded. Even among those who met her, few knew the full scope of her accomplishments or the details of the early days of the School.

This is why we have devoted a section of the website to an in-depth appreciation of “Mrs. Schenck,” as the older alumni will remember calling her. The Meet Our Founder section has many materials and photos that have been buried in crumbling boxes and scrapbooks for decades and are just now seeing the light of day.

An early class on “Rhythms” ca. 1922 from Janet Schenck’s personal scrapbook

Did you know that…

  • Mrs. Schenck gave lectures at the Metropolitan Opera Guild?
  • She had Fritz Kreisler as an early member of the School’s Artist Auxiliary Board?
  • She served as president of the National Guild of Community Music Schools?

An early photo of “two of the School’s first graduates” that includes a young Dora Zaslavsky, standing, who would join the faculty and teach for over 60 years

While we have presented excerpts before from Adventure in Music — the memoir Mrs. Schenck wrote and published in 1961 — a complete reproduction of the book has now been included in the Founder’s section for the first time.

A 1970 portrait of Janet D. Schenck by John Koch

Architecture Revisited

The buildings of Manhattan School of Music’s current campus — some inherited from the Institute of Musical Art (1910) and Juilliard (1931), some built by MSM itself (1969 and 2001) — are excellent examples of the rich architectural history of New York City.

Our Architectural History page extols the School’s physical attributes from an outsider’s perspective, with an insider’s devotion. Illustrated with archival photos, it culls from expert sources and published commentary.

The Student’s Room, ca. 1910, also known at the Heckscher Children’s Library, next to a photo of the same room from the 1980s

Details of the evolution of the East 105th Street building are also included elsewhere on the website, as described below.

Virtually Unseen

Our first Virtual Yearbooks were launched on the School’s website in 2008, with a new page for each decade. We have done a major overhaul of these, adding new and higher resolution photos that chronicle each year since the School was founded.

One of the oldest surviving items from the School’s history, showing ledger entries for receipts and disbursements from January/February 1918, when Manhattan School of Music was still known as the Union Settlement Music School

Alumni will relive their time at MSM through listings and photos of important events, beloved faculty members, guest artist master classes, and NYC musical highlights. We hope you will also explore other eras of our past, enhancing your appreciation for our traditions and taking pride in our shared yesterdays.

A drawing of proposed additions to the E. 105th Street buildings, included in a “Raise the Roof” fundraising pamphlet ca. 1957

Did you know that…

  • Marian Anderson gave the commencement address in 1965?
  • A 1941 Met performance of “Don Giovanni” benefited the School?
  • Anton Coppola received an honorary doctorate in 2010?
  • Josephine Whitford was first hired as Assistant Registrar in 1931?

The 1990 American Premiere of "Cornet Christoph Rilke’s Song of Love and Death" by Siegfried Matthus

Please find time to explore MSM’s storied past in ways never before available to MSM alumni. And if you find some MSM treasures on your own archaeological digs be sure and contact me (John Blanchard) at 917-493-4496 or

What’s in store for future archival enhancements?

Audio clips of select performances. Stay tuned!

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