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The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences - Its Musical Work. By James Francis Cooke.

brooklyn-institute-header.jpgIt is quite as interesting to trace the growth of a successful institution from a small beginning to great prominence and importance as it is to follow the course of a mountain rivulet as it widens and deepens into a great river. The work of the Brooklyn Institute, and especially its Department of Music, is generally acknowledged to be one of the most extraordinary developments of its kind in America, if not in the entire world. At the present time the Institute is absolutely unique in the amount of popular educational work it accomplishes.

Brooklyn has always been a musical city from the nature of things. Quieter and better adapted for general social intercourse than its neighbor, it very naturally has been the home of many of New York’s greatest writers, preachers, artists, and musicians. The work of Theodore Thomas and of Anton Seidl were of very great importance to Brooklyn. The Seidl Society was the first to produce Wagner’s “Parsifal” in this country in its entirety in oratorio form. As the “City of Churches,” Brooklyn has also been the home at various times of many of the greatest of American organists. Its proximity to New York, with its numerous theaters, music halls, innumerable orchestral concerts, and its great opera house, its charming geographical situation, its refined residence sections, all have contributed to make Brooklyn just such a field for the work conducted by the Brooklyn Institute.

The Institute itself was originally started in the year 1823 by a few gentlemen including Augustus Graham, who determined to establish a free library for the apprentices of the town. On July 4, 1825, General Lafayette laid the cornerstone of the first building. From this very small beginning has grown this Institute, with a membership of 6600, giving over 4000 concerts, lectures, and meetings a year, and holding properties valued at $2,500,000 and upward. The progress of the Institute as a body was not as regular as might be supposed from its present great size and prominence. At first it thrived remarkably and its audiences were addressed by no less celebrities than Agassiz, Dana, Gray, Henry, Morse, Guyot, Cooke, Garrison, Everett, Curtis, and Beecher. Owing to various conditions, the Institute suffered a decline, but in 1S87-88 a renaissance took place and the Brooklyn Institute again came to the front. At that time it had only 82 members, and held only 78 meetings yearly. Several local scientific and art associations were amalgamated with the Institute during the succeeding years, until there are at present 28 departments embracing as many arts and sciences. The Department of Music, in which we are particularly interested, was established in 1891 with a membership of 117. In the same year a movement was started to erect a Museum of Art and Science near Brooklyn’s largest park, Prospect Park. This building is being built in sections, two of which are now complete. When finished, it will be one of the finest buildings of its kind in the world. There are already located in its art galleries numerous collections of very valuable paintings, including the entire James J. Tissot collection of paintings depicting the “Life of Christ,” which is now a property of the Brooklyn Institute. This building will contain a hall suitable for large concerts and will have a seating capacity of 3000. The building itself, when finished, will be 550 feet square and will have 4 large interior courts. In it will be located the various scientific, literary, and artistic collections of the Institute, which already include some of the most important ones of their kind in America. The Institute also possesses two other large buildings, and holds various lectures and meetings in other auditoriums situated in many parts of the city.

brooklyn-institute.jpgThe organization of the Musical Department was accomplished by convening several of the prominent musicians of the city including such men as Dudley Buck, E. H. Benedict, J. H. Brewer, A. Claassen, P. Jervis, C. H. Morse, R. Navarro, W. Neidlinger, H. R. Shelley, M. Spicker, P. Tidden, C. Venth, A. Walther, and R. H. Woodman. The department started with 54 members; the foregoing names are those of the members of the first Executive Board. It now has 2141 members. The by-laws give the following as the object of the department: “The object shall be the promotion of the arts and science of music, by means of concerts, recitals, lectures, musical instruction, and such other methods as may be adopted.” The actual management of the Department of Music is vested in the Executive Committee of the Advisory Board, which consists of 8 members, 6 of whom are professional musicians elected by the Advisory Board at the annual meeting. This committee has full power to execute the will of the Advisory Board. The director of the Institute is also a member of: this board.

Prof. Franklin W. Hooper is the present Director of the Institute, and it is under his fostering care that the Institute has grown from the small organization of two decades ago to its present great size. This gentleman is not a professional musician, but it is difficult, indeed, to conceive of a man with a Harvard education, who has heard, as a matter of course, practically all of the great artists and orchestras that have appeared in this country for a number of years, without absorbing a general musical education of no small pretensions. The benefits that Professor Hooper has received in this manner are none other than those which have been opened to the members of the Institute through his exertions and those of the Advisory Board. Mr. August Walther, however, was the prime mover in the establishment of a Musical Department of the Institute; at least, he was the first to propose the forming of a musical department. Mr. Walther is one of the most modest and retiring of Brooklyn’s musicians. However, his musicianship is shown by his string quartets, which have been played by some of the leading American quartets.

It was thought best to place the management of the Musical Department in the hands of professional musicians rather than to have permitted it rest with the great number of amateurs who make up the larger part of the membership of the Musical Department. The wisdom of this movement has been continually proven and will doubtless be as successful in the future as in the past, so long as the members of the Executive Committee hold elective offices and do not form a close corporation.

The failure of many attempts to control musical societies throughout the country is often owed to the fact that their governing boards are composed largely of inexperienced and unmusical laymen, who seldom do little more than succeed in exposing their ignorance and making it uncomfortable for the professional musicians they employ.

The principal objects which the Brooklyn Institute has accomplished in the Department of Music are the following: —

First, the systematizing of concert-giving in the city so that the various musical events do not “collide,” as is often the case in other cities, and thus turn concerts into failures that might otherwise have been successes if given in their proper season.

Second, the exceptional means provided by the Institute organization for informing all of its members regularly and systematically of coming musical events. It must be remembered that the entire membership of the Institute is not composed of musical people, but rather those who take a general interest in the arts and sciences. However, each member receives a bulletin every week together with various other printed notices of an educational description. The individual member is at liberty to determine upon the concerts he desires to attend and he is also enabled to attend scientific and other lectures in any one of the other twenty-seven departments or sections. The educational value of this is simply enormous, as all of the regular members are continually being informed as to what is being done in the Department of Music, and the musical members are also kept informed as to the work of the other departments. To illustrate just how valuable this phase is, let us take such a lecture as that at one time given by Dr. William Hallock, Professor of Physics at Columbia University, on his wonderful apparatus for photographing the physical manifestations of harmonics in the human voice. This lecture would fall naturally in the Department of Physics, but all of the members of the Department of Music also received a notice of it with the weekly card admitting a member and a friend. Again, the Institute gave over 100 readings by Mr. George Riddle. These readings naturally fell under the head of the work in Philolgy, but since many of these remarkable readings, such as “The Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Manfred,” “Œdipus,” “Antigone,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Faust,” were given with orchestral and choral music written by Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Gounod, the readings were naturally of great interest to musicians, and it was to their advantage to be kept informed of them.

A third advantage may be said to be the general reduction of managerial expense, which makes it possible to give the various lectures and concerts at a price of admission which in many cases is very little, if any, more than that of those charged in numerous European cities sought by music students. This is made possible partly through the endowment fund of the Institute, which is $350,000.00, and, though not large, has nevertheless an insuring value which should not be underestimated. No attempt is made to make the Department of Music or, in fact, any other department, a money-making institution. Every effort is made, however, to make the work self-supporting; During the course of a year a number of the concerts are likely to be poorly attended, and might result in a disastrous and cruel failure for both artist and manager. The same concerts when given under Institute auspices are much less disastrous financially, since a deficit can be partly met by the profits from more successful events.

In fact, the work of the Institute as a whole could hardly be possible were it not for this compensating factor which maintains the financial equilibrium of the institution. Indeed, the present writer personally feels that a purely musical organization unallied with such a body as the Brooklyn Institute would suffer many disadvantages, the principal of these being the likelihood of having its educational work limited to professional musicians and the lack of permanency that such a society would have.

The Institute, as has been intimated, is a purely popular body for the purpose of diffusing scientific knowledge and promoting artistic culture. To become a member, one must pay an initiation fee of $5.00 and also an annual fee of $5.00. This entitles the member to admission to the greater majority of the meetings held by the Institute. No entrance examination of any kind is exacted and no certificate, diplomas, or degrees are awarded, except in the department of Pedagogy. There is practically no direct private instruction in any branch of the Institute, the essential idea being to educate through lectures, exhibitions, recitals, and concerts.

The work of the Department of Music can best be estimated by outlining the work for the year 1902-03. There were during that year 4 organ recitals, 4 chamber-music concerts, 5 orchestral concerts, 6 song recitals, 4 piano recitals, 3 choral concerts, 28 lecture-recitals, aside from various classes in sight-singing, etc., held by the Brooklyn Institute. The purposes of the concerts are, first, the presentation of the best musical compositions by the best musical talent, and, second, instruction concerning the aims and purposes for which different classes of music have been composed and the means by which the composer has reached his results.

The weekly membership ticket does not admit to all of these concerts, owing to the enormous expense involved. However, reserved seat coupons are issued to Institute members whereby they are enabled to secure admission at rates often one-half or one-fourth of those charged in other cities. The first event was given by the Department of Music on the evening of November 27, 1891, when Mr. H. E. Krehbiel spoke upon Chinese music, and the lecture was illustrated by a Chinese band of eight performers. A more cacophonous beginning of a musical department could hardly be imagined. In 1891-92 only 8 events took place. The growth of the Institute during the ensuing decade may be shown by the following table: —

Number of concerts given, 1891-92, 8, average attendance at each concert, 1100; 1892-93, 15, 1500; 1893-94, 18, 1400; 1894-95, 20, 800; 1895-96, 16, 1115; 1896-97, 27, 1291; 1897-98, 48, 1224; 1898-99, 42, 1148; 1899-1900, 42, 1325.

The total attendance at all concerts, lectures, meetings, and exhibitions during the year 1903-04, exclusive of museum attendance, was over 450,000. These figures do not indicate by any means the entire work of the Musical Department of the Brooklyn Institute, but simply outline the principal concerts and lectures. In no other way can the work of the Institute be better estimated than by giving a list of some of the famous musicians who have appeared before the Institute audiences.

Conductors: J. H. Brewer, A. Claassen, F. Damrosch, Walter Damrosch, Frank Taft, W. Gericke, Victor Herbert, George Henschel, Emil Pauer, Max Spicker, R. Strauss, Edward Strauss, H. H. Wetzler, and H. Winderstein.

Pianists: Adele Aus der Ohe, H. Bauer, Mrs. H. H. A. Beach, Fanny Bloomfield-Zeisler, L. Breitner, Teresa Carreño, Dohnanyi, Godowsky, Josef Hoffman, M. Hambourg, Joseffy, E. Macdowell, Ernst Perabo, E. B. Perry, Paderewski, Rosenthal, Reisenauer, Madame Roger-Miclos, Madame Szumowska, C. Sorbino, Siloti, C. von Sternberg, W. H. Sherwood, and A. W. Whiting.

Vocalists: Suzanne Adams, Bispham, Ben Davies, F. Davies, Madame Blauvelt, Shannah Cummings, G. Campanari, Carl E. Dufft, Clementine de Vere, Emil Fischer, Katherine Fisk, Mackenzie Gordon, Plunkett Greene, Gadski, Hildegarde Hoffman, E. Van Hoose, Marguerite Hall, Mr. and Mrs. George Henschel, Max Heinrich, Schumann-Heink, Emma Juch, Madame Kirby-Lunn, Gwilym Miles, Madame Melba, Madame Nordica, Pol Plançon, W. Rieger, A Van Rooy, Camille Seygard, Gertrude May Stein, Madame Ternina, Evan Williams, H. Witherspoon, and Marie Zimmerman.

Violinists and ‘Cellists: Adamowski, R. Arnold, H. Becker, Burmeister, Gerardy, Lady Hallé, Halir, Kreisler, Kubelik, Franz Kneisel, Leonora Jackson, Musin, Marteau, Thibaud, Maud Powell, Alvin Schroeder, and Ysaye.

String Quartets: Kneisel, Spiering, Danreuther, and Adamowski Trio.

Organists: J. H. Brewer, Clarence Eddy, Guilmant, Lemare, William Middelschulte, C. F. Morse, H. R. Shelley, E. E. Truette, F. Taft, and R. H. Woodman.

Lecturers: F. R. Burton, Walter Damrosch, L. C. Elson, C. Fique, H. G. Hanchett, W. J. Henderson, M. R. Hofer, H. E. Krehbiel, Mrs. M. G. Murray, Mrs. H. O’Donnell, and T. W. Surrette.

The lectures given under the auspices of the Brooklyn Institute come the nearest to direct instruction of any branch of its work unless it be the excellent classes in Sight Reading conducted by the well-known specialist, Mr. Wilbur R. Luyster, and in former years by Mr. Tali Esen Morgan, and Mr. Clarence Steele. The lectures have been very numerous and very comprehensive in scope. They are generally given without additional cost to Institute members, and they have covered practically all branches of music from the Wagner music drama and the Beethoven sonata to the folk-song and the negro melodies.

Oratorios: The following oratorios are among those given by the Brooklyn Oratorio Society, Walter Henry Hall, conductor, under the auspices of the Institute: “The Messiah,” “The Creation,” Henschel’s “Requiem,” “The Redemption,” “St. Paul,” Liszt’s “St. Elizabeth,” Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,” Verdi’s “Manzoni Requiem,” Buck’s “The Light of Asia,” Elgar’s “King Olaf,” etc.

Orchestral Concerts: Upward of 75 very important orchestral concerts have been given by the Institute during the comparatively short existence of the Musical Department. All of these have been given by visiting Symphony Orchestras, principally the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which is regularly engaged for an annual series. The Institute possesses, in addition to its own library, the collection of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Society, including over 6000 valuable works, which will soon be installed as a musical reference library. The musical library of the Brooklyn Public Library is exceptionally fine, and the Drexel Musical Library of the New York Public Library is one of the best in existence. Both of these sources of reference are of incalculable value for students.

Only one music festival has been attempted by the Brooklyn Institute, and that one was not in any sense so pretentious as many festivals given in other cities. It is felt that since regular musical work is possible in Brooklyn, perhaps the festival plan is not feasible. However the Saengerfest, conducted in 1900, by Mr. Arthur Claassen (who with Emil Pauer was also the conductor of the Institute Festival), was eminently successful. Brooklyn’s claim to being a music center rests not in some yearly musical event of indisputable importance, but rather in its steady, regular work in the realm of the tone art.

Brooklyn now lacks a large concert auditorium owing to the destruction by fire of the Academy of Music last year. This fire was looked upon by Brooklyn musicians as fortunate rather than unfortunate, since the Academy had long since become inadequate to the requirements of the musical events constantly being given in the city. A movement is already well under way to construct in the heart of the city what will doubtless be one of the finest Concert Halls in the United States. This together with the hall to be erected in the Institute building will provide Brooklyn with exceptional advantages. The Symphony Concerts during the past year have been given in the Baptist Temple.

The influence of the Institute upon musical taste in Brooklyn has been nothing short of marvelous. In fact, many call it a revolution. The attendance at the concerts and lecture is constantly increasing, and if similar institutions could be established in a majority of our smaller cities and properly conducted the United States would witness a similar musical revolution in a very few years. The advance of civilization has always been along Institutional lines. The desirability of having the musical affairs of a community conducted with regularity and system is obvious. A well-defined educational purpose should underlie all such institutions. The work of the Brooklyn Institute should in no way be confounded with that of the old-fashioned Lyceum Bureau, since the former practically makes popular education the imperative issue, and this issue is harmoniously and intelligently kept continually before its members. In cities where a Lyceum Bureau is now in existence it would not be a difficult matter to establish an Institute of Arts and Sciences, and thus turn what is frequently a series of poorly arranged entertainments into an educational institution of indisputable importance. Very insignificant and inauspicious beginnings often lead to the foundation of permanent institutions. Very few, indeed, are the institutions in this land that have sprung into existence by means of a fortunate endowment. No one knows just what a meeting of a few ambitious teachers may lead to if the announced purpose is to establish a permanent institution.

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