Orpheus in Manhattan: William Schuman and the Shaping of America’s Musical Life
William Schuman - Years of Completion


The Years of Completion

He continued to find ways to use his administrative gifts. He continued to compose works of depth and breadth. And he paved the way for those administrators and composers who came after him.

  • agrees to serve on the board of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and fights to retain his original vision for this constituent (January)
  • comes down with “the bug”, blacks outs, and breaks two ribs: “But I am cheerful because I feel so happy about the new work and my new freedom to write more music.” (January)
  • spends time in Florida with the Warburgs and then in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a NET board meeting (January–February)
  • agrees to serve on the board of the Film Society of Lincoln Center (March)
  • proposes a study for NYU as they consider establishing a program in arts administration (March–April)
  • balks over his treatment by the Philadelphia Orchestra as the administrators attempt to renegotiate the terms of recording the Ninth Symphony (March–April)
  • attends concerts during the Second International University Choral Festival at Lincoln Center (March)
  • accepts a commission from Dartmouth College (April; the commission goes unfulfilled)
  • conducts a study on electronic video recordings for CBS (April–May)
  • accepts a commission from the Ben Shahn Foundation (May)
  • agrees to overseeing a fanfare commissioning project in celebration of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 100th anniversary (May)
  • accepts a commission from the University of Michigan for a band work (June; the money cannot be raised)
  • signs on with the Herbert Barrett Management, Inc., as a speaker; fee = $1,500 (June)
  • agrees to serve as a member of the Joint Committee on United States-Japan Cultural and Educational Cooperation (June)
  • Happy Birthday To You [Eugene Ormandy] (June 30)
  • Anniversary Fanfare (July 14)
  • persuades the Lotos Club to get rid of canned music (August)
  • alerts Mennin, who is president of the Naumburg Foundation, of restiveness with his leadership (September)
  • has his lawyer write to Mennin about a New York Times article that contains “unpleasant statements about him which he tells me are completely contrary to fact” (October)
  • Haste (Five Rounds on Famous Words) (October 18)
  • In Praise of Shahn: Canticle for Orchestra (October 27)
  • provides a draft study for the Twentieth Century Fund on American orchestras and their repertoires under foreign-born conductors but begs off continuing the study (November)
  • confers with others whether it is illegal to be president emeritus of two institutions simultaneously (January–February)
  • accepts a commission from the Eastman School of Music (March)
  • travels with Frankie to Japan on State Department business; they also visit Hong Kong, Istanbul, and Rome (March–April)
  • becomes chairman of the Videorecord Corporation of America (April)
  • speaks to Joan Ganz Cooney about bringing Sesame Street under VCA’s wing (May)
  • works on the merger of National Educational Television and Channel 13 (May–October)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Ashland College
  • begins to dictate his memoirs (summer–fall)
  • serves as MC for Copland’s seventieth birthday celebration (November)
  • resigns from the board of WNET–13 to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interests between VCA and the board (fall)
  • submits “A Proposal to Adapt Sesame Street Programming for Videorecords” (January)
  • receives a thank-you and an offer of collaboration from Edward Kleban (January)
  • agrees to do a study and report on the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra (February–March)
  • makes the Greenwich home their legal residence (March)
  • travels overseas for a vacation, including a week in Tunisia (March–April)
  • Mennin steps down as president of the Naumburg Foundation, to Schuman’s relief (May)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music
  • considers accepting a commission for the centennial celebration of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in October 1973 (May)
  • begins to take a more aggressive stance in promoting performances of his works (June)
  • Declaration Chorale (June 30)
  • Mail Order Madrigals (July 27)
  • receives the MacDowell Medal and volunteers to help the Colony in some way (August)
  • agrees to serve on the Board of Overseers for the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College (September)
  • agrees to write a work for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (September)
  • attends the National Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural concert in the Kennedy Center; A Free Song is the final work on the program; he sits in a box with President Nixon (September)
  • accepts a commission from the Preparatory Division of the Manhattan School of Music to compose music for the violin designed for students in the beginning and intermediate stages of their studies (November)
  • Voyage for Orchestra (December 6)
  • gives his upright Steinway from Martha’s Vineyard to the Riverdale School (December)
  • sells the Fifth Avenue apartment, buys a pied-a-terre on Park Avenue, and enlarges the Greenwich house (December)
  • reinitiates his interest in composing an evening-long work for the nation’s bicentennial (all year and next)
  • proposes a study to the Rockefeller Foundation concerning the feasibility of developing common office facilities and related supporting services for nonprofit music organizations located in New York (January)
  • bows out of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations commission (March)
  • accepts a commission from the Ford Foundation (March)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music
  • accepts a commission from the National Symphony for a bicentennial work; imagines a 30–minute work for chorus and orchestra; seeks a co-sponsor (August)
  • starts work on “a fantasy for solo viola — women’s chorus — orchestral winds and pitched percussion” (October)
  • travels to Los Angeles for interviews and meetings (November)
  • Two-Part Violin Inventions for Student and Teacher
  • encourages the Chamber Music Society to perform Harris’s Piano Quintet in honor of Harris’s 75th birthday (February)
  • steps down as chairman of Videorecord in a restructuring of the company (April)
  • To Thy Love: Choral Fantasy on Old English Rounds (June 29)
  • serves as consultant to the Rockefeller Foundation for a project to “document a history of American music over the past 200 or more years on 100 discs”; leads to the Recorded Anthology of American Music and to New World Records; Robert Sherman is his partner on the report (June 1973–May 1974)
  • explores the possibility of recasting The Mighty Casey “as a vehicle for narrator, chorus and orchestra”; soon decides on using a baritone solo as well (September)
  • is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • Concerto on Old English Rounds (December 3)
  • becomes chairman of the MacDowell Colony (January)
  • meets and praises Leonard Slatkin (January)
  • reintroduces his idea of merging the American Academy and the National Institute (February; is appointed in March 1975 to a committee that studies the merger; the merger itself is approved in May 1976)
  • proposes a special MacDowell award for Martha Graham (February)
  • *Joshua Weiss, Andrea's son (February 12)
  • determines to write a band arrangement of Be Glad Then, America (March)
  • tells Antal Doráti that the subtitle of his Tenth Symphony is “American Muse” (April)
  • receives a commission from Joseph Hirshhorn (May)
  • praises Bernstein for his new ballet, Dybbuk (May)
  • Prelude for a Great Occasion (June 24)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from SUNY Albany
  • formally accepts a commission from the Chamber Music Society (August)
  • begins plans for a radio series for WQXR related to the bicentennial; suggests the title American Muse; Richard Freed is engaged to write the scripts (August–October)
  • approaches Robert Merrill to determine his availability as Casey soloist (October)
  • affiliates himself with the newly-formed Norlin Foundation (November)
  • Be Glad Then, America (band)
  • Symphony no. 10, “American Muse” (March 27)
  • suggests that Robert Joffrey create a new work using Copland’s Duo for Flute and Piano as part of the MacDowell Colony’s celebrations surrounding Copland’s 75th birthday (April–May)
  • is interviewed by John Gruen for the Oral History Project, Dance Division, New York Public Library (May 7)
  • lends his name to Vivian Perlis for her proposed Oral History America Music project (May)
  • recommends Rosalind Rees as soloist for the all-Schuman National Symphony Orchestra concert (June)
  • records the last of twenty American Muse radio programs (June 11)
  • The Young Dead Soldiers (July 12)
  • proposes an article for the New York Times detailing the dearth of performance of American music by American symphony orchestras (August)
  • works with Thad Marciniak on the “expanded transcription“ of Casey at the Bat (summer–fall)
  • announces that the Norlin Foundation will give the MacDowell Colony $250,000 in honor of Copland (October)
  • Casey at the Bat (January)
  • becomes a trustee of the National Humanities Center (February)
  • WQXR begins airing radio series, American Muse (March 16)
  • the National Symphony Orchestra conducts their all-Schuman evening (April 6–8)
  • the New York Philharmonic performs the Concerto on Old English Rounds, Bernstein conducting (April 15–17, 20)
  • Amaryllis: Variants for String Orchestra (May 18)
  • travels to Chicago to hear Leonard Slatkin perform the Tenth Symphony (June)
  • writes to Frederik Prausnitz: “You ask if I am writing. My answer is that I expect to this summer, but, frankly, I have been depleted from the enormous efforts of the last three years.” (June 19)
  • is ordered by his doctor not to attend the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival because of altitude (June–July)
  • speaks at the unveiling of John Philip Sousa’s bust at the Hall of Fame for Great Americans; Howard Shanet provides the research for the talk (August 23)
  • declines an offer for a commission to compose his Eleventh Symphony (December)
  • A Round for Alice [Tully] (February 7)
  • delivers the keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Choral Directors Association in Dallas (March 10)
  • A Round for Audrey [Gerstner, Schuman’s sister] (March 26)
  • offers Slatkin a world premiere (April)
  • delivers the eulogy at the memorial service for Goddard Lieberson (June 3)
  • moves to another apartment on Park Avenue (June)
  • develops a proposal for a television program, William Schuman’s Musical America (August)
  • expounds on his vision for the Chamber Music Society as it approaches its tenth anniversary (August)
  • asks Phyllis Curtin about poems he might set, including those of MacLeish (September)
  • travels to Atlanta to hear the Atlanta Symphony and Robert Shaw perform In Praise of Shahn (September)
  • discusses the possibility of a commission from the Rochester Philharmonic for a clarinet concerto for Michael Webster, son of pianist Beveridge Webster (September; plans to begin it in early 1979; commission eventually falls through)
  • tries to resign from the board of the National Humanities Center but relents and stays on for one more year (September–October)
  • writes to MacLeish, pondering whether “an effective song cycle could not be made from Conway Burying Ground, The Old Gray Couple, both I and II, and possibly one or two others, such as Dozing on the Lawn” (November)
  • persuades Richard Rodgers to fund “an award for young talent in musical theater broadly understood” to be administered by the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters; Rodgers gives $1,000,000 for the award (November–March)
  • persuades the CBS Foundation to fund a prize in honor of Goddard Lieberson; the foundation gives $300,000 for the prize (November–March)
  • lays out for his publisher his ideas for promoting his music (December)
  • In Sweet Music (Serenade on a Setting of Shakespeare for Flute, Viola, Voice and Harp) (January 25)
  • further outlines a series of ten-twelve [television] programs covering “the exuberance of American music in its astonishing variety, and its extraordinary quality...” (April 1978–April 1981)
  • Happy Birthday to You (Score Three for Mockshin at Three Score) [Mark Schubart] (May 24)
  • oversees Jon Goldberg’s arrangement of A Song of Orpheus for chamber orchestra (summer)
  • introduces the telecast celebration of Bernstein’s sixtieth birthday (August 25)
  • corresponds with Antony Tudor about a possible collaboration (September–January)
  • attempts to reignite CBS’s leading role in recording and distributing cotemporary American music (October)
  • serves as MC for a state dinner at the Lotos Club given in honor of Copland (November 1)
  • receives word that Nonesuch Records will pass on recording In Sweet Music (November)
  • XXX Opera Snatches (December 25)
  • begins to work with Christopher Rouse about a “book-catalogue” on Schuman (January)
  • celebrates Roy Harris’s election to the American Academy/Institute, which Schuman had proposed shortly after his own election (February)
  • asks Gerard Schwarz if the XXV Opera Snatches is playable by one performer (March)
  • Three Colloquies for French Horn and Orchestra (September 4)
  • congratulates Copland on being selected as one of the Kennedy Center honorees (September)
  • accepts a commission from the St. Louis Symphony (September)
  • †Seymour Shifrin (September 26)
  • †Roy Harris (October 1)
  • explores engaging the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in recording American music (fall)
  • Time to the Old (December 12)
  • provides a blurb for Otto Luening’s autobiography (February)
  • receives the Boston Symphony Orchestra Horblit Award (March)
  • reminisces with David Ewen over Max Persin (March)
  • travels to Philadelphia to hear Ormandy’s last performance of a Schuman work (Credendum) (May)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the North Carolina School of the Arts
  • Three Pieces for Five Brasses (July 8)
  • participates in Aspen’s Schuman celebration (July–August)
  • receives a commission from the American Bandmasters Association for a work to be completed by January 1, 1981; informs his publisher a few days later of his decision to withdraw the Three Pieces and to “make a more extended work out of the Second Movement, The Lord Has a Child”; the tentative title is The Lord Has a Child: Variations on a Melody (August)
  • Ode to Leonard [Feist] (October 29)
  • American Hymn (brass quintet) (October 31)
  • begins discussions about a possible new work for the New York Philharmonic (November)
  • American Hymn (concert band) (December 1)
  • explores with the Warburg family the establishment of the William Schuman prize in honor of his seventieth birthday (December)
  • receives an invitation from Tikhon Khrennikov to attend a festival of contemporary music in Moscow, May 1981; declines for personal reasons (December)
  • salutes Robert Shaw on his accomplishments, some of which Schuman abetted (January)
  • For A.C. [Aaron Copland] con amore (January 15)
  • †Samuel Barber (January 23)
  • congratulates Elliott Carter on winning the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize: “There is no doubt in my mind that of all American composers you are the one who has most impressed Europeans.” Carter rebuts the statement (March)
  • gives John Corigliano his prediction that “you will be the first American composer to write a successful opera for the Met — one that will remain in the repertory” (June)
  • recommends Ned Rorem for the Lancaster (PA) Symphony Orchestra award, which Rorem receives (June)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music
  • praises Paul Hume as “one of the finest American critics of music this country has known” (July)
  • Round for Emily Joan Warburg (September 2)
  • writes to Pres. Ronald Reagan, reminding him of their joint speaking engagement in January 1968 and asking him to support “restoring tax deductibility for composers, visual artists and authors who donate their original manuscripts and works to tax-exempt institutions” (November)
  • American Hymn (orchestra) (December 7)
  • receives the first William Schuman Award from Columbia University; uses the prize money to underwrite recordings of his work (December)
  • crafts his proposal for Advance Bequest Certified Deposit (ABCD), a plan for voluntary contributions that increase income (through 1985)
  • attends the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival (July–August)
  • accepts a commission from Ithaca College (March)
  • Perceptions (April 12)
  • receives the Gold Medal for Music from the American Academy/Institute of Arts and Letters; Bernstein gives the speech in Schuman’s honor (May)
  • is installed, with Frankie, into the George Washington High School Alumni Hall of Fame (June)
  • praises Samuel Adler for Adler’s transcription of the second movement of the New England Triptych (July)
  • Esses (July 22)
  • Steve Robinson’s A Life in Music: William Schuman airs (August)
  • works with Albert Webster at the New York Philharmonic for a joint commission for a large composition (fall)
  • asks E.C. Schirmer for a copy of the women’s chorus arrangement of Awake Thou Wintry Earth (November)
  • enters the cardiac unit at Lenox Hill Hospital (December 17; leaves on December 31)
  • relinquishes his chairmanship of the Koussevitzky Music Foundation and of the American Music Recording Institute; is later reinstated as chair of the latter (January)
  • congratulates Ellen Taaffe Zwilich on receiving the Pulitzer Prize in Music: “Since I was the first winner in 1943, I think I should have my picture taken with Ellen Z., the 1983 winner, with the title of ‘Beauty and the Beast‘!” (April)
  • thanks Phillip Ramey for the dedication of Ramey’s Fanfare-Sonata (August)
  • Alan Hovhaness: “I must also mention one of the finest American composers of symphonies and large and smaller works too, William Schuman, born in 1910. I admire his Third Symphony very much and I heard his Second Symphony which I thought was quite original. The Sixth and Eighth I’ve known, and I think he is a very powerful composer.” (October)
  • undergoes triple bypass surgery (November 2; comes home on November 18)
  • accepts a commission from the New York Philharmonic and other orchestras for “a major work, of thirty to forty minutes duration, for full orchestra and chorus, for a fee of $75,000 plus up to $15,000 for the preparation of parts” (December)
  • steps down as the chairman of the MacDowell Colony’s board of directors (January)
  • engages Richard Wilbur as collaborator for his cantata (February)
  • attends a preview performance of Sunday in the Park with George (April 9)
  • hears from CBS Records that CBS will not fund the American Music Recording Institute proposal (September)
  • thanks William Kraft for the dedication of Kraft’s Interplay (January)
  • On Freedom’s Ground: An American Cantata for Baritone, Chorus and Orchestra (February 6)
  • writes to the MacDowell Colony on the occasion of the disbanding of the Norlin Foundation and its outstanding pledge to the Colony (March)
  • †Eugene Ormandy (March 12)
  • presents the Gold Medal for Music from the American Academy/Institute of Arts and Letters to Bernstein, reversing their roles of 1982 (May)
  • praises Alex North for his film score Prizzi’s Honor (June)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Johns Hopkins University
  • accepts a commission from the Naumburg Foundation (summer)
  • Dances (Divertimento for Wind Quintet and Percussion) (August 12)
  • provides the introduction to a catalog on Bernstein for the Museum of Broadcasting (September)
  • attends a birthday celebration given by the Chamber Music Society (October 1)
  • helps Martin Segal and others organize commissions for the First New York International Festival of the Arts; Schuller and Schwanter dedicate their pieces to Schuman (January)
  • tries again, with the help of David Wright, to compose his memoirs (February)
  • Showcase: A Short Display for Orchestra (February 19)
  • attends a celebration of his music at Sarah Lawrence (February 28)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree from SUNY Potsdam
  • hears the first-ever professional production of The Mighty Casey; receives an invitation from Glimmerglass Opera to consider composing a companion piece (July–September)
  • Awake Thou Wintry Earth (August 12)
  • sells his papers to the New York Public Library for $250,000, payable over a five-year period (fall)
  • accepts a commission from the Van Cliburn Foundation, Inc. (January)
  • accepts a commission from the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (February)
  • Cooperstown Fanfare (February 27)
  • declines a possible commission from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, citing a plethora of other commissions and possibilities, including one for the Seattle Symphony (April)
  • asks Richard Wilbur to collaborate again with him on Roald Dahl’s story, “Taste”; Wilbur declines and suggests John Hollander; Hollander recommends J. D. McClatchy (April)
  • receives the official commission from Glimmerglass Opera (April)
  • receives the National Medal of Arts Award (May)
  • writes a new introduction for Copland’s What To Listen For In Music (June)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Juilliard School
  • †Vincent Persichetti (August 14)
  • String Quartet no. 5 (August 19)
  • For Wiley H. [Hitchcock] (September 1)
  • agrees to write a variation on Bernstein’s “New York, New York” in celebration of Bernstein’s seventieth birthday (November)
  • makes provisions with his publisher in the event that he does not live to see the completion of A Question of Taste (January)
  • returns the $20,000 he received for the Tampa Bay commission (February)
  • completes the vocal score of A Question of Taste (April 26)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Yale University
  • Tony marries Margaret E. Seip (“Peg”) (June 10)
  • Let’s Hear It for Lenny! (June 24; is unable to attend the premiere due to health concerns)
  • Chester: Variations for Piano (August 16)
  • works with William Zinsser on his memoirs (winter–summer)
  • completes the orchestration of A Question of Taste (February 28)
  • allows Stanley DeRusha to reorchestrate On Freedom’s Ground for wind orchestra, which Schuman calls “excellent” (March)
  • encourages Ned Rorem as he and McClatchy consider writing an opera on Walt Whitman (June)
  • enjoys the double bill of A Question of Taste and The Mighty Casey (June–July)
  • McClatchy suggests other poems that Schuman might wish to set (July)
  • reinitiates talks with the Library of Congress about a commission for violin; “I have great confidence in young [Robert] McDuffie, and I would pursue with enthusiasm writing a work which he could introduce” (September)
  • accepts a commission from the Greenwich 350 Committee; asks McClatchy to provide the text, to no avail (November)
  • is one of five Kennedy Center honorees (November; broadcast in December)
  • The Lord Has a Child (choir and brass) (March 15)
  • receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Manhattanville College
  • accepts a commission from the William Ferris Chorale for a vocal fanfare (October; responds in April that “I have written about four measures”)
  • cabaret benefit evening of songs selected by Schuman from 1910s and ’20s (October 10)
  • works with Heidi Waleson on his memoirs (fall–spring)
  • †Leonard Bernstein (October 14; writes the tribute for the Academy/Institute, which Weisgall delivers for Schuman)
  • †Aaron Copland (December 2)
  • hears The Ghosts of Versailles in a private run-through with Corigliano and Hoffman (January)
  • receives a commission from the Library of Congress (April)
  • receives an offer of a commission ($10,000) from Brandeis University for a string quartet in memory of either Bernstein or Copland; explains to Robert Koff, the original second violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, why he must decline (May)
  • attends the opening of the exhibit “An American Triptych: The Dynamic Worlds of William Schuman” at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, “the first time I was out of the house for an engagement in over four months” (October 25)
  • accepts the Library of Congress commission: “Should I accept it? My answer is an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ It is my hope and expectation to begin work before too long. Will I complete the project? I certainly hope so, and, barring unforeseen circumstances, I’m cautiously optimistic.” (October 31)
  • writes Pres. George H.W. Bush in support of The Juilliard String Quartet as a recipient of the National Medal of Art (December)
  • attends the premiere of The Ghosts of Versailles (December 19)
  • convenes a meeting of the “Copland Founders” to be held at his home on February 26; David Del Tredici was one of the members
  • †February 15, 11:43 a.m.
  • “Of Bernstein, it was said he was a polymath — a man of many skills; Bill by contrast was a whole man, who, if he had any limitations, none were apparent.” [Abram T. Collier to Frankie, February 15, 1992]