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October 25, 2011

Exhibits profile 90 years of performance history at Eastman

1920s photo of Eastman musicians

Live radio broadcasts, commercial recordings, evolving orchestras and chamber ensembles—all are a part of the Eastman School’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 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,” says 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

A three-part exhibit, “90 Years of Eastman School of Music Orchestras,” is among those on display. Part 1, which wrapped up Oct. 14, traced student orchestras from the years 1922 to 1953. Part 2, on display through Nov. 18, covers the multitude of active student orchestras in the 1950s. The last installment will be up from 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 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 Oct. 31 through 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 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 Jan. 6 through Feb. 17.

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 Feb. 24.

Coppen is also preparing two exhibits that will coincide with next year’s Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, June 22–30. 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.

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