May 8, 1915
Page 41

Increasing Demands of Concert Work Compel Noted Violinist and Educator to Give Up Duties Which He Has Performed Devotedly for Fifteen Years—Feels School is Now Well Enough Established to Continue without His Guidance— To Devote More Time to School for Negroes—Settlement Idea Has Become National Movement—Country’s Attitude Toward Art Affected by Principle of Studying Music Not as a Trade, but as a Medium of Self-Expression

THERE will be more than a few persons who have watched the career of David Mannes who will regret his resignation from the directorship of the Music School Settlement of New York, which has just been announced. The building up of this institution, the success of which has been such that similar schools are springing up all over the country to-day, has been a labor of love for Mr. Mannes. On Monday morning of last week he spoke about it to the present writer who visited him at his New York home.
“I feel that the Music School Settlement has now become a national movement,” said Mr. Mannes, “that it stands as one of the big things in the musical life of this country. Think! There are thirty settlements in America to-day working along the lines of the one in New York, of which I have been director. Wherever I go I am asked about the work and I see it progressing admirably. For fifteen years I have given the best part of my life to the Music School Settlement. From an acorn, full of promise and possibilities, I have seen it grow into a sturdy oak, its branches stretching over this entire country. It has successfully outlived the doubts and scoffings of the sceptical, its many experiments and trials. It has democratized music as perhaps no other effort has succeeded in doing, not so much by giving lessons at cheap prices as by affirming the right of every child to express himself in the art he loves, whether gifted by nature or not, and by opening its doors to all who seek to enter and share in its opportunities.
Music a Divine Birthright
“Much as the work of the school itself has meant to me, perhaps my greatest happiness lies in the fact that its influence has radiated so far and that its teachings have affected the attitude toward music throughout the country. My belief that music is the divine birthright of every living soul and not only for an exclusive few is becoming the basis of all musical movements m the United States and will, before long, succeed in making this a truly musical nation with a soil of music-lovers out of which a great creative genius may spring.
“Whatever my work may have been worth to the school, it has repaid a thousand-fold and given me courage for the rest of my days. For some years my life has been growing more complicated. My concert work with Mrs. Mannes has grown to such proportions that any other artist would consider this in itself a sufficient life work. The strain of combining this with the school and my other activities has been so great that I realize I cannot carry it all any longer. I must have more time for my artistic activities and for the development of other important plans, and I feel that the school, well organized as it is, can now continue on its way without my guidance.”
To those who have known Mr. Mannes as director of the settlement it will be of interest to understand that his duties entailed his active presence on several days a week, including Sundays, and often evenings, when his advice was required for the night orchestras which meet after the day’s work is over. “I felt guilty,” added Mr. Mannes, “whenever I had to go away on a tour of more than two weeks. Concert work has called me many times when I have found it difficult to get away. And the work has increased so during the last year or that I have been unable to continue, much as I have wished that I might. What extra time I may gain now I must devote to the Music Settlement for Colored People which I founded and which is doing such noble work under the direction of J. Rosamond Johnson. I feel that there, too, are virtually unlimited possibilities and they must be looked after.
Flood of Inquiries
"You have no idea of the correspondence which I have been obliged to conduct as director of the Music School. From all over the country come letters, piling up in quantities. No letter goes unanswered. As a boy I often wrote letters to celebrated artists asking advice. For the most part they were not answered. And so I made up my mind some years ago that I would reply even to the humblest. The inquiries pour in, from boys and girls who are studying music, from everywhere in fact. My secretary seems to be working all day attending to these things. It has been a pleasure, however, to do this and I am happy if I can give advice.
“I know that the Music School Settlement on East Third Street has already wielded a great influence. Before the Settlement got to working there were whole bands of music teachers on the lower East Side who went into the homes of the poor Jewish families. They talked with the parents and assured them that, if they would but send their sons and daughters to them, they would develop these as virtuosi. Money would pour in and the family might then sit back and live on the dollars earned by the young violinists and pianists. It was a terrible state of affairs.
Routed Charlatans
“The Music School Settlement and my preaching the doctrine of discouraging music as a profession has routed these charlatans, who raised false hopes in the bosom of many a father and mother with only the selfish idea of getting pupils. Whereas a decade ago, if the question had been asked of one of these East Side parents, ‘Why should your son learn to play the violin?’ the answer would have been ‘To earn lots of money.’ To-day they reply to the same question ‘Because I don't want him to be a brute.’ We have appealed to these people and we have had a response.
“I have realized for a long time that, especially for the Jews in this neighborhood, something had to be substituted for religion. Saturday is no longer the Sabbath to many of them; it is a business day like any other day. And I dreamed that if I could put music into their souls they would have an ideal. At one of the meetings of fathers and mothers which I held I spoke of just this. The orchestra played several numbers. And I knew that our work had told when one old Jewish woman got up and said: ‘I know what Mr. Mannes wants. He wants this to be a temple—a place of worship.’ That idea is the big thing. It has gotten to these simple people’s hearts and they know now that they can find in music consolation. They no longer regard it as a trade. As for the girls who have taught at the Music School I am certain that not one of them but will be a better mother—and they all aspire to be mothers someday—for having worked with us and carried music to their young people.” —A. W. K.


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