American Composers


Commentary by Robin Rausch
Music Specialist at The Library of Congress

It's fascinating to me as a historian, because it started at a time when American artists were struggling to define what American art was. And you can see this in the early years of the MacDowell Colony, you can see the people that are coming there. Composers, to use composers as an example, were trying to define an American music, a distinctly original American music, and they struggled to get their works performed. Because in the early part of the 20th Century the orchestras in America were by and large made up of European performers, they were conducted by European conductors, and they were playing the music of European composers.

And Marian MacDowell, having been married to a composer for some twenty-four years, she understood what that struggle was, that American composers faced in trying to get their works performed. And in the early years of the MacDowell Colony she organized and produced a series of music festivals. And they ran from about 1910 until 1914, and many young American composers had their works performed for the first time at these festivals, often under their own direction.

And Marian MacDowell arranged to have a professional orchestra available to these composers, and they would arrive days ahead of time so that they had plenty of time to rehearse. And it was a profound experience for these young composers, and it really meant a lot to them.

Back to top