Live radio broadcasts, commercial recordings, evolving orchestras and chamber ensembles – all are a part of the Eastman School of Music’s history and will be subjects of exhibits throughout the School’s 90th anniversary year.
Curated by David Peter Coppen, special collections librarian and archivist in the School’s Sibley Music Library, the exhibits feature photographs, concert programs, reviews, correspondence, and other artifacts tracing students’ performance activities since the School opened as the first professional school of the University of Rochester on Sept. 19, 1921.
“The Eastman School of Music has enjoyed a rich history. A milestone such as the 90th anniversary is the ideal occasion to step back and examine what’s gone before, and the wealth of the Sibley Library’s archival holdings permits just such an opportunity,” said Coppen. “While it would be impossible to present every noteworthy facet, my intention throughout the year is to conjure up at least some sense of the Eastman School’s vibrant performance history and the varied experiences that have resulted from such an assembly of musical talent.”
In all, more than a dozen exhibits are planned for the Library’s display cases located on the second floor near the library’s main entrance and on the stairwell between the third and fourth floors.
Nine Decades of School Orchestras
Currently on display on the second floor is the first installment of the three-part exhibit “90 Years of Eastman School of Music Orchestras.” Part 1, which can be seen through Friday, Oct. 14, traces student orchestras from the years 1922 to 1953. Included is the program from the very first public performance of the then-named Student Orchestra on May 18, 1923. The Student Orchestra was soon renamed the Eastman School Orchestra and then was divided into the Eastman School Senior Symphony and Eastman School Junior Symphony in the 1940s. The two ensembles were renamed Orchestra #1 and Orchestra #2 in the 1950s. Today, the corresponding ensembles are the Eastman Philharmonia and the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra.
Also performing during the Eastman School’s first three decades were the Kilbourn Hall Orchestra, described as a chamber-sized ensemble that presented standard symphonic fare; and the Eastman School Little Symphony, composed of members of the Phi Mu Alpha music fraternity.
Part 2 of the orchestra exhibit covers the multitude of active student orchestras in the 1950s and will be on display from Monday, Oct. 17, through Friday, Nov. 18. The last installment will be up from Monday, Nov. 21, through Dec. 31, and focuses on orchestras from 1958, when the Eastman Philharmonia was founded, until the present day.
In addition to the second-floor orchestra exhibit, the stairwell exhibit case will display items about the Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra. Under the School’s Director Howard Hanson, the orchestra made numerous recordings on the Mercury label and performed in Hanson’s annual Festivals of American Music. The exhibit on the “fine little orchestra,” as Hanson referred to the ensemble, will be up from Monday, Oct. 31, through Saturday, Dec. 31.
Eastman on the Radio and on Tour
In the spring, planned exhibits include spotlights on Eastman’s radio activities, the Eastman Philharmonia’s 1961 tour, and jazz activities at the School.
“Eastman on the Airwaves” traces the prolific broadcasts that brought Eastman School activities directly into people’s homes. During the 1930s and 1940s, performances in Kilbourn Hall and Eastman Theatre were regularly broadcast live to local audiences and taped for national distribution over the NBC radio network. In the 1950s, “Evening at Eastman” was a live hour-long program on weeknights that featured a variety of Eastman performances and guests. In addition, Hanson produced his own radio series titled “Milestones in the History of Music.”
“Eastman on the Airwaves” can be seen in Sibley Library’s second floor exhibit case from Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, through Friday, Feb. 17, 2012.
Also opening on Jan. 6 is “Eastman Philharmonia in Europe: 50 Years Ago.” Showing in the stairwell case, the exhibit traces the orchestra’s three-month, 34-city tour with Hanson through Europe, the Middle East, and behind the Iron Curtain at the end of 1961. The exhibit runs through Friday, Feb. 24, 2012.
Coppen is also preparing two exhibits that will coincide with next year’s Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, June 22 through 30, 2012. The second floor exhibit case will spotlight “Milestones in Eastman School of Music Jazz,” including the first student jazz performance during the 1946 Festival of American Music and the “Arrangers Holidays” series that brought such jazz greats as Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck to Eastman for free summer concerts.
The stairwell exhibit case will feature photographs by local resident Hal Schuler, retired from a 30-year career as an analytical chemist with Eastman Kodak and a longtime dedicated jazz aficionado, who photographed such jazz artists as Miles Davis and Joe Henderson over a 30-year period.
In addition, the Eastman Wind Ensemble Room on the fourth floor of the Sibley Music Library has a long-running exhibit with programs, photographs, and recordings of the ensemble, which was founded by Frederick Fennell in 1953 and is considered America’s leading wind ensemble.
The Eastman School of Music’s Sibley Music Library, the largest academic music library in North America, is located in Miller Center at 26 Gibbs St. Founded in 1904 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Hiram Watson Sibley as a public music library for the Rochester community, the library became part of the Eastman School of Music at the School’s founding in 1921.
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