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


The Early Years

He dreamed of being a professional baseball player. He tried to blaze a trail in Tin Pan Alley. He ended up studying for a career as an educator. He willed himself into becoming a composer of serious music.

  • *William Howard Schuman; parents are Rachel and Samuel Schuman; delivered at 350 West Seventy-First Street, Manhattan (August 4)
early 1910s
  • lives in Englewood, New Jersey
late 1910s
  • lives in Far Rockaway, Queens
  • attends the wedding of Miriam Schurmacher to Henry Heilbrunn; remembers sixty years later the principal song played: “The Love Nest”, lyrics by Otto Harbach, music by Louis A. Hirsch, which was published that year (June 9)
early 1920s
  • returns to New York and attends P.S. 165 on 109th St. in Manhattan
  • becomes friends with Eddie Marks and Ferd Nauheim
  • attends Camp Cobbossee in Winthrop, Maine for the first of six summers as a camper
  • Eddie Marks comes to Cobbossee with Schuman
ca. 1923
  • his play, College Chums, is given at Speyer Experimental Junior High School
  • 1924
  • gives the confirmation speech at Temple Shaaray Tefila
  • plays MacDowell’s To a Wild Rose in his public debut as a violinist (May 23)
  • travels to France with other NYC schoolboys as guests of the Department of Education in Paris and the Committee Accueil des Étudiants
ca. 1926
  • forms Billy Schuman and His Alamo Society Orchestra
  • Three Songs without Words for Violin and Piano
  • composes a tango for Cobbossee’s Monster Minstrel Show (August)
  • graduates from George Washington High School (January)
  • enrolls at New York University (February)
  • It’s Up to Pa for Cobbossee (with Marks); several songs are published by Marks Music, including I Want To Be Near You (August)
  • withdraws from NYU in the spring due to poor academic performance (February–March)
  • works at Paramount Advertising Service (“Creator of Advertising Ideas”)
  • works as Music and Dramatic Teacher at Cobbossee (summer; also in 1930)
  • This Business Of Loving You (with Marks)
  • begins harmony lessons with Max Persin at the Malkin Conservatory of Music (ca. fall)
  • hears his first New York Philharmonic concert (April)
  • writes to Marks: “If we want to get any place in the song business together, this summer is the time to start.” (May)
  • Lovesick (with Marks) (November 15)
  • works at Edward B. Marks Music Corporation as composer and arranger
  • Where The Grass Grows Green (with Frank Loesser)
  • Doing the Dishes (with Loesser)
  • Once More
  • From Dusk To Dawn (with Leonard Silver) (May 29)
  • With All Due Respect (musical; with Marks et al.)
  • In Love With A Memory Of You (with Loesser) (October 29)
  • goes on a double date with Ferd Neuheim; Bea Strasburger and Frances Prince are the women
  • Waitin’ For The Moon (January 28)
  • God’s World (Edna St. Vincent Millay) (June)
  • enrolls in courses at the Juilliard Summer School (orchestration; advanced theory)
  • submits a guest column for the Camp Cobbossee newsletter
  • participates in the Special Supervisors’ Orchestra of the Institute of Musical Art of the Juilliard School of Music
  • Potpourri (Impressions of Bohemian Life) (October 1)
  • Adoration (a setting of the Aleinu from the Union Prayerbook for Jewish Worship) (October 24)
  • begins counterpoint lessons with Charles Trowbridge Haubiel (November 3)
  • Cradle Song for piano solo (dedicated to the firstborn of Hazel S. and Sidney M. Wittner) (January 31)
  • Cinq petits préludes à deux voix for piano solo (Jean Carolene Marks) (April 1)
  • Selection for String Quartet Parts I & II (May 2)
  • Canon (IV) (with Introduction and Coda) for piano solo (June 25)
  • enrolls in courses at the Juilliard Summer School (advanced conducting; brass instruments; chorus)
  • Four Canonic Choruses (Millay, Countee Cullen, Carl Sandburg, and Alfred Lord Tennyson) (July 11–February 16, 1934)
  • works at Camp To-Ho-Ne, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
  • enrolls at Teachers College (Columbia University)
  • Canon and Fugue for violin, cello, and piano (January)
  • completes counterpoint lessons with Haubiel (April)
  • Pastorale no. 1 (April 1)
  • works as counselor at Brant Lake Camp, Lake George, New York, where Fair Enough (“a revusical presented by the Brant Lake Players of 1934”) is performed; last time he writes popular songs
  • Pastorale no. 2 (November 1)
  • Choreographic Poem for Seven Instruments (March 1)
  • Sonnet (Millay) (April 1)
  • At Daybreak (Walter Conrad Arensberg) (before May 3 recital)
  • accepts position at Sarah Lawrence College (June)
  • completes Bachelor of Science (Music) degree
  • takes a summer course in conducting at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria; mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens is at the Mozarteum with Schuman
  • Symphony no. 1 (composed mostly in Austria)