Music For American Youth

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From the January, 1941 WQXR Program Guide:

Mr. Ganz is conductor of the Young People's Chorus of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Society. He is a pioneer in the field of children's concerts, having directed such concerts for the past eighteen years. The Young People's Concerts from Town Hall, New York, January 13th and February 17th at 3:45 P.M. will be broadcast by WQXR.

There seems to be in some uninformed circles, the general impression that the musical education of American youth is being neglected. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. At the moment America offers a unique opportunity for the presentation and appreciation of the better music. Nor is this, as many might be tempted to think, solely because a European war has put an end for the time being to cultural development abroad.

Young people's and children's concerts, which for the past eighteen years have flourished in the United States, bringing music of the highest type to hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of the younger generation, are a purely American institution. They were tried for a short time in Switzerland, but the project was abandoned. They were suggested, needed, desired in Paris, but given up for lack of money. Naturally all such institutions abroad are state-supported, and securing the passage of an act of Parliament solely to give children an opportunity to hear fine music seems difficult to negotiate.

I doubt very much if Americans generally realize how much they owe to women's clubs for the cultural progress of this country. Had there been such organizations abroad I am sure that the musical education of children, particularly in the smaller countries, would have been better safeguarded. For it is the women's clubs in many cities in the United States that have done much to stimulate interest in good music in the home, club and concert hall and so have given indirect impetus to our most successful experiments in musical education for American youth.

Traveling, as I do, all over the country, I am increasingly impressed, year by year, by the growth of musical interest among the young. Through the great number of high school orchestras and bands the instinct for self expression through music has been reawakened. Our young people are no longer content merely to hear music. They want to perform it themselves.

The wealth of good musical literature adapted to youthful presentation which has been turned out by American composers during the past few years is yet another factor in the increasing musical consciousness of our young people. The ability to write good music in easy style is not only a high form of musical art, but the mastery of this technique by American composers has had tremendous influence in teaching our young people to enjoy performing music, rather than to accept it as an arduous but necessary phase of their cultural education. So that we are now in an encouraging stage of our musical development.

Naturally, I could not write of musical education for young people without reference to children's and young people's concerts as an important factor in the general educational program. The late Ernest Schelling, who for so many years conducted these concerts here in New York, created standards of efficiency which should be an inspiration to directors of children's concerts everywhere. Particularly commendable is the widespread participation of the children in preparations for the concert, such as writing the notes which are published in the program, keeping notebooks dealing with the compositions performed, etc. This actual participation in the concerts gives them far greater value than if the children were merely to come and listen to the music. Moreover such concerts are a factor greatly to be reckoned with in adult education. Many parents who thought themselves non-musical have become musical enthusiasts merely by accompanying the young people of their family.

I am not, of course, in New York all the time, and so cannot listen regularly to the musical programs given by station WQXR, but I have been studying some of its program announcements and am astounded and delighted by the wealth and variety of fine music it offers and infinitely pleased that it gives young people outside the metropolitan area an opportunity to share in the Town Hall concerts of our Young People's Series. Certainly the owners and managers of a station which presents so much of musical worth are entitled to seats in the grande estrade in Heaven, even though theirs may be smaller chairs than those of the musical immortals. 


New York Philharmonic Young People's Concert program cover from November 13, 1943 with Rudolph Ganz conducting. (Program scan courtesy of New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives)