Virtual Yearbooks: Pre-1940s

The School's first home at the Union Settlement on East 104th Street
The School's second home at 238 East 105th Street (c. 1928)

Information on this page is arranged in ascending year order for this decade. It includes Manhattan School of Music historical facts and images from the School's archives, as well as items and quotes submitted by alumni. Each section also includes some Other Highlights of New York City's music history.

  • View the Mysterious & Miscellaneous Photos section at the end and see if you can identify the time, place, and people in the photos.
  • Submit your own memories and photos through the Class Notes section of the Online Community.

1918

The School is established by Janet Daniels Schenck (pictured) at the Union Settlement on East 104th Street, later moving to a rental brownstone on East 105th Street. She is director from 1918–1956. READ MORE

There are 120 students, representing 10 nationalities, and a faculty of 23. The fee charged is 50 cents a lesson or 25 cents with two in a class. A budget of $3,000 for 1918–1919 is approved.

In March, Harold Bauer and Pablo Casals become the founding members of the artist auxiliary board.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Rachmaninoff moves to New York moves to New York.
  • Irving Berlin writes “God Bless America.”
  • Rosa Ponselle makes Metropolitan Opera debut in La forza del destino.
  • The Harlem Hellfighters, James Reese Europe’s 369th Regiment band, with Rafael Hernandez (who will become known as Puerto Rico’s greatest composer) and 17 other Puerto Rican soldiers, records 21 songs and is the first group to play ragtime and jazz in Europe.
  • Lewisohn Stadium opens, with 6,000 seats and standing room for 1,500, to hold summertime orchestral concerts (between West 136th and 138th Streets and Convent and Amsterdam Avenues; demolished in 1975).

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1919

The first District Music Service begins, currently known as community outreach, with concerts given at various divisions of Ellis Island, including the tuberculosis and psychopathic wards. Surgical and shell-shock hospitals are visited weekly.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • George Gershwin, 19, writes “Swanee,” with lyrics by Irving Caesar, featuring 60 chorus girls with electric light bulbs attached to their slippers (Capitol Theater).
  • Irving Berlin incorporates Irving Berlin Music Corp. to publish his own music.
  • Pete Seeger born in NYC, May 3.
  • Roseland Ballroom opens (Broadway and 51st Street).

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1920

The School’s first charter is issued. The School is incorporated as the Neighborhood Music School under the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.

The School has 200 students.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Enrico Caruso gives last public performance in La juive at Metropolitan Opera.
  • Jazz pianist (James) Fletcher Henderson, 23, begins playing piano on a Hudson riverboat and works as a plugger for a sheet music company.
  • The Ziegfeld Follies, music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, opens with Fanny Brice and W.C. Fields at the New Amsterdam Theater (123 performances)
  • Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Bessie Smith (“Empress of the Blues”), Alberta Hunter, and Ethel Waters introduce the blues to Harlem

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1921

[More content coming soon.]

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Constance Keene, MSM piano faculty, born in Brooklyn, February 9.
  • Edgar Varèse organizes International Composers’ Guild to promote the cause of 20th-century music.
  • Fanny Brice introduces songs “My Man” and “Secondhand Rose” at Ziegfeld Follies.
  • Shuffle Along, music by Eubie Blake, starring Florence Mills and teenaged Josephine Baker, opens at the 63rd Street Music Hall (504 performances).

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1922

May — The first commencement is held and the first diploma awarded.

Hugo Kortschak joins the conducting and string faculties, where he remains for 30 years.

October — The School is moved to facilities at 238 East 105th Street.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • “Charleston,” in the revue Runnin’ Wild, launches a dance craze.
  • Bessie Smith makes her first recording for Columbia Records.
  • Edwin Franco Goldman’s New York Military Band moves outdoor summer concerts to Central Park Mall.
  • New York Philharmonic conducted by Willem Mengelberg makes first recording for the Victor, Co.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1923

The first concert in a public hall is performed in the Heckscher Theatre in May.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Bruno Walter makes American debut conducting New York Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall.
  • Cotton Club opens at Lexington Avenue and 142nd Street.
  • Tito Puente (Ernest Anthony Puente Jr.) born in Spanish Harlem, April 20.
  • Maria Callas born in NYC, December 2.
  • Louis Armstrong debuts at Harlem’s Lafayette Theater as a member of Fletcher Henderson’s Big Band.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1924

The first Town Hall recital is given in January.

There are 246 students representing 14 nationalities, with 244 on the waiting list, 28 teachers, and a budget of $19,854.37.

Pianist Harold Bauer gives his first master class in the fall.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Paul Whiteman commissions George Gershwin to write Rhapsody in Blue, premiered by Gershwin at the piano and Paul Whiteman’s orchestra at Aeolian Hall.
  • Lady Be Good by George and Ira Gershwin opens with Fred and Adele Astaire at the Liberty Theater. Songs include “Somebody Loves Me,” “The Man I Love,” and “Fascinating Rhythm.”

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1925

The School’s first auditorium is constructed seating over two hundred people.

In November, the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York grants the School’s permanent charter.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • New York Philharmonic and conductor Walter Damrosch premiere Symphony for Organ and Orchestra by Brooklyn-born Aaron Copland, featuring organist Nadia Boulanger.
  • George Gershwin’s Concerto in F premiered (Carnegie Hall).
  • Paul Robeson gives first concert recital, consisting solely of spirituals, at the Greenwich Village Theater.
  • Contralto Marian Anderson makes her debut with the New York Philharmonic at Lewisohn Stadium.
  • Popular song “My Yiddishe Momme” by Jack Yellen and Lew Pollack is a hit.
  • Smalls’ Paradise jazz club opens (7th Avenue and 135th Street).
  • Sammy Davis, Jr., born in Harlem, December 8.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1926

Dora Zaslavsky, one of the first graduates of the School, joins the piano faculty, where she teaches for over 60 years. Estelle Parnas Oringer (Diploma ’42 / BM ’45) remembers: "When I was studying with Dora (Zaslavsky), I used to come early in the morning and be there all day. My mother would get worried about where I was..."

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Metropolitan Opera gives American premiere of Puccini’s Turandot, with Maria Jeritza and more than 650 performers on stage.
  • Tony Bennett (Anthony Dominick Benedetto) born in Astoria, Queens, August 3.
  • Fats Waller records organ solos in New York.
  • Savoy Ballroom opens (596 Lenox Avenue, between 140th and 141st Streets).
  • Walter W. Naumburg establishes a foundation “to give public hearings for deserving music students.”

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1927

[More content coming soon.]

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, is first sound movie released.
  • New York-born prodigy Yehudi Menuhin, 11, makes Carnegie Hall debut.
  • Harry Belafonte born in Harlem, March 1.
  • Showboat, music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, starring Paul Robeson singing “Ol’ Man River,” opens at the Ziegfeld Theater (527 performances).
  • Pianist Charlie Palmieri born in NYC, November 21.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1928

A benefit concert for the School is given by the Philharmonic Society of New York (now the New York Philharmonic) at the Metropolitan Opera House conducted by Arturo Toscanini.

The School moves into a new four-story building, built on the same site as the old.

There are 28 theory classes; 20 scholarship students; Senior Orchestra numbers 28.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Concert by the Philharmonic Society of New York conducted by Arturo Toscanini benefits Janet Schenck’s Neighborhood Music School.
  • Bela Bartók makes American debut performing Rhapsody, op. 1 for piano with New York City Symphony Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg.
  • Rudy Vallée, 27, the first ‘crooner’, forms his own band, using a megaphone to amplify his voice, and opens at New York’s Heigh-Ho Club.
  • Composer Nicolas Flagello born NYC, March 15 (MSM faculty 1950–77, MSM alumnus).
  • Vladimir Horowitz, 23, and contralto Marian Anderson, 31, make Carnegie Hall debuts.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1929

[More content coming soon.]

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Mario Bauzá, 19, influential Latin jazz musician, emigrates to New York from Cuba.
  • Ezio Pinza sings Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera.
  • Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians begin annual New Year’s Eve broadcasts from the Roosevelt Hotel.
  • WNYC begins airing Masterwork Hour, which will become radio’s oldest recorded program of fine music.
  • Beverly Sills (Belle Miriam Silverman) born in Brooklyn, May 25.
  • Conguero Ray Barretto born in Brooklyn, April 29.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1930

New library and elevator for the library are added; a beautiful reading room is constructed in place of the entrance court.

Hugh Ross, conductor of New York’s Schola Cantorum, joins the faculty, where he remains for over 50 years.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Girl Crazy, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Walter Donaldson and Ira Gershwin, opens at the Alvin Theater (272 performances) and Astoria-born Ethel Merman, 21, knocks ‘em dead with “I Got Rhythm.”
  • Stephen Sondheim born in NYC, March 22.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1931

At the invitation of Director Janet Schenck, Josephine Culver Whitford joins the staff as assistant registrar, and thus begins an over 50-year association with the School.

Estelle Parnas Oringer (Diploma ’42 / BM ’45), pictured, writes: “This photo was taken during my studies at Manhattan School of Music. That year, I graduated from Hunter College, where I was also a student, and the youngest to graduate — at age 19! At MSM, I studied with some of the finest teachers: Mildred Dassett, Dora Zaslavsky, Frances Hall, and Harold Bauer…”

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Samuel Barber composes Dover Beach, op. 3 for voice and string quartet.
  • Brill Building opens, with 11 stories occupied by Tin Pan Alley publishers / bandleaders (1619 Broadway).
  • Steinway becomes the standard piano used in radio broadcasting.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1932

The School has 320 students representing 18 nationalities; there are 44 teachers on faculty.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Duke Ellington writes “It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got that Swing.”
  • Radio City Music Hall opens, housing the largest organ built by Rudolf Wurlitzer, with Morton Gould, 19, as staff pianist.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1933

[More content coming soon.]

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Ruth Crawford Seeger’s String Quartet premiered by New World String Quartet at the New School for Social Research.
  • Lena Horne, 16, debuts at the Cotton Club.
  • Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” and Rodgers and Hart’s “I Gotta Get Back to New York” written.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1934

There are 403 students representing 25 nationalities.

Weekly concerts at the Museum of the City of New York are started. From February 27 to June 5 the School gives 88 programs of music in 29 different centers: 37 programs in educational organizations, 31 in social centers, 15 in health centers, and 5 in churches.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Arnold Schoenberg moves to NYC to teach at Malkin Conservatory (stays at the Ansonia Hotel, Broadway and 73rd Street).
  • Antonia Brico appointed conductor of the Women’s Symphony Orchestra of New York.
  • Harlem’s Apollo Theater opens as a showcase for black performing artists; first year performers include Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and, on “Amateur Night,” 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald.
  • Anything Goes by Cole Porter opens with songs including “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “You’re the Top” at the Alvin Theater (420 performances).
  • Glenn Miller joins the Dorsey Brother’s Orchestra and debuts at the Rainbow Room.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1935

“District Music Service” (community outreach) includes 32 concerts at 15 different agencies; 23 additional agencies are reached regularly through concerts, designed especially for the community, and given at the School. This program grew out of the first music programs given in the hospitals immediately after the last war.

There are 435 students representing 21 nationalities in attendance: 25% are under 12 years of age, 36% between 12 and 18, and 39% over 18 years old (61% under 18 and 39% over 18 years of age).

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Benny Goodman hires pianist Teddy Wilson for his trio, breaking the racial color line in jazz.
  • Popular song “Lullaby of Broadway” by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin, is a hit.
  • Max Gordon opens the Village Vanguard jazz club on Seventh Avenue.
  • Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin premieres at the Alvin Theater.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1936

[More content coming soon.]

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Steve Reich born in NYC, October 3.
  • Roger Sessions composes his String Quartet No. 1.
  • Billboard magazine publishes first pop music chart on record sales.
  • Rudolf Serkin, 32, makes Carnegie Hall debut.
  • Bobby Darrin (Walden Robert Cassotto) born in the Bronx, May 14.
  • WQXR begins broadcasting as first U.S. classical radio station.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1937

[More content coming soon.]

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • John Brownlee (future MSM president) makes Metropolitan Opera debut.
  • Samuel Barber composes First Essay for Orchestra.
  • Lukas Foss, 15, moves to New York from Germany.
  • NBC Symphony, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, founded.
  • Brooklyn-born radio hobbyist Avery Fisher, 31, founds Philharmonic Radio Co., to market improvements he has made to audio designs.
  • Babes in Arms by Rodgers and Hart opens with songs including “My Funny Valentine” and “The Lady is a Tramp” at the Shubert Theater (289 performances).
  • The Cradle Will Rock, music and book by Marc Blitzstein, direction by Orson Welles, production by John Houseman, opens at the Venice Theater.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1938

Amendment to charter of the Neighborhood Music School renames the institution Manhattan School of Music.

The School has 482 students, 55 scholarship students, 46 theory classes; Senior Orchestra numbers 70.

The new Hubbard Auditorium and additional rooms added to the building are completed (pictured).

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Benny Goodman and his Orchestra give first Carnegie Hall big-band jazz concert.
  • Antonia Brico becomes first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic.
  • Minton’s Playhouse jazz club opens on 18th Street and 7th Avenue.
  • John Corigliano (MSM alumnus) born in NYC, February 16.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

1939

A December performance by the Metropolitan Opera benefited Manhattan School of Music. The production was Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, with Eric Leinsdorf conducting a cast that included Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Blue Note Records founded by German-born Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, who have come to NYC to escape Nazi persecution.
  • Billie Holiday performs “Strange Fruit” at Café Society on Sheridan Square.
  • Saxophone innovator Charlie Parker moves to NYC, hears pianist Art Tatum at Jimmie’s Chicken Shack.
  • Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) founded.

[SUBMIT YOUR OWN MEMORIES]

Mysterious & Miscellaneous Photos

Do you have a photo with unknown people in it or are you just not sure when or where the photo was taken? Send us a copy and we'll help you find out.

Learn About Other Decades

1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s