ROCHESTER, NY — At the birth of America’s Roaring ’20s, a small group of visionary civic leaders in a mid-sized Western New York city came together with the dream of forming a world-class school of music. The story of how, in 1921, Rochester industrialist, entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman founded the Eastman School of Music, and how his vision subsequently flourished into the present day, is now available in a new book — For the Enrichment of Community Life — coinciding with the 150th birthday of Mr. Eastman himself. The School’s historian, alumnus and longtime piano faculty member Vincent Lenti has authored and officially documented its rich history in this release through the University of Rochester Press.
Through his meticulous research, Lenti has developed a chronology based on decades of correspondence, publications, and personal interviews culminating in Volume I, a documentary history beginning with the origins of the Eastman School until the death of George Eastman in 1932. Some of the country’s most well-known business leaders and artistic movers and shakers — including such luminaries as American composer Howard Hanson; renowned dancer/choreographer Martha Graham; theater and film director Rouben Mamoulian; opera impressario Vladimir Rosing; Harper Prize-winning author Paul Horgan; the remarkable University of Rochester President Rush Rhees; and Eastman’s first director, Alf Klingenberg — figure prominently in this first volume, which will be launched unofficially during the centennial celebration in October of Eastman’s renowned Sibley Library during the School’s Alumni Weekend. Lenti forsees two more volumes to encompass the rest of the School’s history through the present day.
The title, For the Enrichment of Community Life, is taken directly from the inscription on the facade of the School’s grand Eastman Theatre, where the world’s greatest musicians have been heard in concert continuously since 1922. The words were selected by U of R President Rush Rhees who dedicated the Theatre to that purpose. The Eastman School — which today boasts more than 11,000 total alumni in all facets of music — was one of the earliest endeavors to incorporate a professional school into a major research university.
“I can’t think of a better person to chronicle Eastman’s history than Vince Lenti, whose personal connections and recollections span more than half of the School’s history,” says Eastman Dean James Undercofler. “Anyone with an interest in what happens when entrepreneurial spirit meets philanthropic vision will find this book a must-read.” The book also contains dozens of important historical photographs, a number of which never have been made public.
Vincent Lenti earned his bachelor and a master’s degrees from Eastman, where he was a student of the noted Italian pianist and pedagogue, Orazio Frugoni. Lenti has been a member of the piano faculty since 1963, also having coordinated primary and secondary piano instruction and supervision of doctoral teaching assistants. In 2002 he was the recipient of Eastman’s Eisenhart Award for Excellence in Teaching.
For the Enrichment of Community Life is available in both hard and soft cover editions, priced at $30 and $20, respectively, plus shipping and handling. Orders shipped outside of New York State are not taxable. For online purchases, visit: http://eastman.bkstore.com. Phone orders can be place through the Eastman School of Music bookstore at 585-274-1399. Lenti will be doing a series of book-signings in the Rochester area throughout the coming months.