A Reminiscence[i]


Manhattan School of Music 1918-1960


Janet D. Schenck





It seems hard to believe that the institute known today as Manhattan School of Music was begun scarcely 40 years ago by Janet D. Schenck, teaching piano to a handful of pupils.


We all felt that this moving life-story of such an indomitable music educator should be told and we finally persuaded Dr. Schenck to write it.


Modestly entitled "Adventure in Music," it is truly an adventure in the grand style because from its inception, when she strove for, and provided opportunities in music instruction, unavailable at the time, for talented youth, she built on solid foundations with those inborn yet intangible qualities of courage and foresight. Then through the years, with her ability to attract the kind of dedicated people, eager and willing to share this vision, she has brought into being a college of music, internationally known and today attended by students from 39 states and 27 foreign countries.


A few years ago, when Janet D. Schenck was awarded her second honorary degree, that of Doctor of Music, the following citation was read:


"Music will not have served its greatest function in democracy until its ministry, its usefulness and its qualifying training is available to all of the people. The unique task of reaching the people with the finest privileges of musical training has been your mission. Your skilled devotion to that task and your superb ability have resulted in the great development of the school which you now direct, and the establishment of others over America under your inspiration and advice. For this service and leadership we extend the recognition of Lafayette College."


As a member of the Faculty of the School for the past eight years, and as our eminent Founder's privileged successor as Director, I invite all lovers of music to vicariously re-live this adventure with one of America's most outstanding educators and humanitarians, who has meant so much to so many.







1918,- 1960


In the fall of 1958 the distinguished' cellist, Pablo Casals, came to the United States in order to give an official performance before the United Nations. It was a moment never to be forgotten by those fortunate enough to have received an invitation - the entire audience of many nations in the great Assembly Hall rising to do touching honor to that unique musician.


Mr. Casals had been one of the original Auxiliary Board of Artists who had been interested and had helped in many ways when Manhattan School of Music was first established. Now he was to make his even more important gesture of goodwill toward us. To quote from the New York Times:


"During his crowded week in New York, his first stay here in thirty years, the 'cellist found time to go to Manhattan School of Music, where a host of students were gathered to greet him. He spoke briefly and extemporaneously, but these young people will long remember the small, dedicated figure telling them how proud a thing it is to be a musician and that nothing less than the utmost simplicity and sincerity are required to serve the art truly. A day later his eyes shone as he recalled the eagerness of the boys and girls."


And from one of our own students writing to us of her appreciation:


"He spoke so eloquently, and with increasing vigor and conviction, of the dedication of music, the happiness it brings, and the courage to follow one's own beliefs. Perhaps his 'You must not be afraid' was one of the guiding forces of the beginning of this School. In any case, it will long remain an inspiring motivation to the people who heard this moving testimonial - from a man who has never been afraid himself 'to follow his own soul'."


A few months before Mr. Casal's visit, the material for a new catalogue lay on the table. As the staff of all schools and colleges will bear witness, the issuance of this document is a fearsome experience which in no wise diminishes as the years roll by. Even typographical mistakes can go unnoticed and cause grief, as when the Director of a distinguished music school pointed out to me that in his recent publication it had headed one section with "Department of Bubble Bass"!


As we were working on this new edition of our catalogue, it was suggested that a small history of the School written in 1938 and called "The Twenty Year Retrospect" should be brought up to date. And then the second suggestion came, that as I had prepared the first account, it would be good if I would now write a more complete history - but this time from an entirely personal standpoint. Why had I started the School and why had I kept on in the face of disturbing obstacles? This seemed to me a rather alarming idea. No one knows better than I do that our School, or any school, is more than the efforts of anyone person - it grows from the devotion and vision and hard work of a group of dedicated people _ some contributing much and some little, but each leaving upon it the touch of his personality. I thought a great deal about this and finally I came to the conclusion that because Manhattan School of Music had had an unusual beginning and that I seemed to be the only person available who could include both that and its later life in just such an informal account, I should agree to make the effort. I thought gloomily of what Harold Bauer had once said of me to a friend, "You know, she is the sort of person who always rings a doorbell three times!" With this rather startling introduction, I hope you will not be too prejudiced against its author to read patiently this short history, and, if possible before you have finished, to feel a kinship with Manhattan School of Music.













[i] Copyright, 1961, Manhattan School of Music 238 East 105th Street New York 29, N.Y.