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


The Sarah Lawrence Years

He made a cold call to president Constance Warren. He was offered a temporary job to cover all of the fine arts in a one-year course. Ten years later, he left as one of the most popular and famous professors of the college.

  • begins temporary full-time position at Sarah Lawrence: “In the Art department Mr. William H. Schuman, graduate of Teachers College, Columbia, and candidate for an advanced degree in music at Columbia, will take a group of beginning students in correlated work in the arts.” Starting salary = $2,400/year
  • completes his Symphony no. 1 (December 28)
  • receives contract for 1936–37 academic year (early March)
  • marries Frankie Prince (March 27)
  • befriends composer–conductor Lehman Engel
  • teaches summer course in orchestration and arranging at Columbia University
  • begins lessons with Roy Harris through the Juilliard Summer School
  • String Quartet no. 1 (August 19)
  • hears his works performed in an all-Schuman Composers’ Forum–Laboratory concert: String Quartet no. 1; Symphony no. 1; Four Canonic Choruses (October 21)
  • first version of Prelude for Voices (December 19)
  • seeks out a score of Harris’s Symphony 1933
  • writes to the New York Times in defense of Harris’s music
  • writes, with SLC colleague Horace Grenell, Sounds: A Study of Orchestral Color (Musicraft Records)
  • helps Stravinsky with the final preparation of the parts for Jeu de Cartes (late winter–early spring)
  • Choral Etude (April 21)
  • Pioneers! (May 1)
  • travels to Europe for a belated honeymoon (June–July)
  • Prelude and Fugue for Orchestra; (transcription of the second and fourth movement of the First String Quartet) (June 28–July 10)
  • serves as secretary to the fledging and ill-fated American Composers Committee
  • String Quartet no. 2 (November 1)
  • Symphony no. 2 (November 1–December 23)
  • Choral Etude wins a choral competition held by the Federal Music Project (January)
  • is invited to conduct the Sarah Lawrence Chorus beginning in the fall
  • the Second Symphony wins a competition held by the Musicians’ Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy (April)
  • Three Pieces for Piano (June 15)
  • accepts a commission to write a ballet, Playground (October)
  • Copland suggests that Schuman send the Second Symphony to Koussevitzky, who programs it for the Boston Symphony Orchestra
  • seeks out a publisher for the Second Symphony
  • joins Ashley Pettis and Harris on a Rockefeller Foundation committee charged with surveying music and the role of the composer in American life
  • Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform the Second Symphony (February 17–18); Koussevitzky invites Schuman to write another composition for that fall
  • meets Harvard College student Leonard Bernstein
  • receives the first of his two Guggenheim fellowships
  • Prologue for Chorus and Orchestra (May 7)
  • cancels the ballet commission: “I must free myself for other things. Playground at this writing no longer sustains in me the creative impetus it impelled.” (May 27)
  • At The Crossroads (for World’s Fair New York City) (1939)
  • The Orchestra Song (for voices)
  • travels with Frankie to Hollywood to visit Copland
  • awarded the first-ever League of Composers–Town Hall composition commission
  • American Festival Overture (July 28)
  • String Quartet no. 3 (December)
  • receives a renewal of his Guggenheim fellowship
  • Howard Barlow performs the Second Symphony with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
  • performs old English rounds with the Sarah Lawrence Chorus
  • This Is Our Time (June)
  • writes to Harold Ickes, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, about the possibility of setting Ickes’s Independence Day speech (August 6)
  • registers for the draft (October 16)
  • Symphony no. 3 (January 11)
  • Choral Fanfare for Women’s Voices (January 17)
  • replies to the query “Do political events affect composition?” at a visit to the NYC High School of Music and Art: “Composition is the result of your life’s experience and will be influenced by it, but music alone cannot express a detailed political philosophy.” (June 1)
  • delivers the commencement address at Sarah Lawrence (with Cora DuBois, anthropology)
  • hears Bernstein conduct the American Festival Overture at Tanglewood (July 18)
  • Symphony no. 4 (August 17)
  • Newsreel in Five Shots (November 16)
  • teams up with Christopher LaFarge to write a work for the Metropolitan Opera (December)
  • looks into enlisting in the Armed Services (December)
  • Fair Land of Hope
  • Requiescat (February 4)
  • Holiday Song (May 26)
  • wins the first-ever New York Music Critics’ Circle Award for the Third Symphony (May)
  • backs out of opera project with LaFarge (June)
  • Concerto for Piano and Small Orchestra (July 18)
  • receives news that his application to join the Army Specialist Corps is denied (September)
  • A Free Song (October 16)
  • meets Robert Shaw and hears the Collegiate Chorale for the first time (fall)
  • meets and agrees to teach composition to Seymour Shifrin
  • Prayer in Time of War (January 2)
  • prepares the Sarah Lawrence Chorus to sing Debussy’s La damoiselle elué with Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (winter)
  • receives an Arts and Letters grant of $1,000 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters
  • wins the first-ever Pulitzer Prize in Music for A Free Song (cash award of $500)
  • turns down a job at the Peabody Conservatory of Music
  • receives a Koussevitzky Foundation commission ($1,000)
  • becomes an officer in the Walt Whitman Society of America
  • Three-Score Set (July 21)
  • Symphony for Strings (July 31)
  • William Billings Overture (November 23)
  • *Anthony William Schuman (December 22)
  • receives a contract for his last year at Sarah Lawrence; salary = $4,250/yr. (just above the median at the time)
  • Steel Town (April 8)
  • receives a commission from the Ballet Theatre ($1,000) (July)
  • Molto tranquillo [Variation on a Theme of Eugene Goossens]
  • Circus Overture (July 20)
  • Orpheus With His Lute
  • Te Deum
  • receives the offer to become Director of Publications at G. Schirmer; starting salary = $10,000/yr; term of service to begin in May of 1945 (September)
  • Undertow (February 22)
  • Fanfare, Song & Dance (ca. 1945?)
  • is offered the presidency of the Juilliard School of Music (June)