History of the NACUSA East Coast Chapter
The East Coast Chapter of the National Association of
Composers, USA was founded by Henry Hadley and his wife Inez Barbour in
1933. It is the oldest US organization devoted exclusively to the promotion of
music by American composers.
Originally known as the National Association of Composers and Conductors, Hadley’s organization counted as its members some of the most famous artists of the time including Serge Koussevitzky, Otto Luening, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, Virgil Thomson and Arturo Toscanini.
Henry Hadley (b.1871 in Somerville, MA; d. 1937 in New York City) studied violin with Henry Heindl and composition with George W. Chadwick. He made his conducting debut in 1900 at New York City's Waldorf-Astoria. From 1904 until 1909 Hadley toured Europe and appeared at the helm of several European orchestras, being the first American to conduct orchestras in Berlin, Mainz and Warsaw. In 1909 he accepted the position of Music Director with the Seattle Symphony and in 1911 he became the founding conductor of the newly formed San Francisco Symphony.
In 1915 he returned to New York to devote the bulk of his energies to composition. He became a much-sought-after conductor appearing with the London and Boston Symphonies. From 1920 until 1927 he served as Associate Conductor of the New York Philharmonic, the first American to ever hold that post. In 1929 he formed the Manhattan Symphony Orchestra with the plan of including works of American composers on every program. The following year he traveled to Japan at the invitation of the New Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo.
During 1925-26 Hadley supervised an extensive series of recordings sponsored by the Columbia Phonograph Company and intended to serve as illustrations of a complete course in music appreciation for the elementary schools in America. In the summers of 1934 and 1935, Hadley led members of the New York Philharmonic in what was the original Berkshire Symphonic Festival – known today as Tanglewood.
Hadley’s opera Cleopatra's Night was premiered by the Metropolitan Opera House in 1920. In 1924 he was elected the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The contents of the Henry Hadley Memorial Library are now housed at the Americana Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Inez Barbour assumed the leadership of the National Association of Composers and Conductors in 1937 serving in this capacity until her death in 1957. Barbour was a much-admired American born soprano. She appeared regularly with the best-known opera companies and orchestras of her time. In 1916, Leopold Stokowski invited her to be the soprano soloist for the American premiere of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8.
During the 1960’s, following Ms. Barbour’s passing, the organization transformed itself into the National Association of Composers, USA while moving its national headquarters to Los Angeles.
In 1981, the New York Chapter was reactivated under the joint leadership of Josef Alexander (1907-1992) and Max Lifchitz. They received generous assistance and advice from many colleagues including Irwin Bazelon, Marshall Bialosky, Otto Luening and William Mayer. The organization’s 50th anniversary concert held in January of 1983 at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital was a resounding success and received a very generous New York Times review written by Bernard Holland. This event was followed by a yearly concert series that featured music by emerging and well established composers. In the fall of 1992 – following Josef Alexander’s passing – the Presidency of what then became known as the East Coast Chapter was assumed by Max Lifchitz.
The more than fifty NACUSA East Coast Chapter concerts produced under Max Lifchitz’s leadership have continued the pattern established during the early 1980’s. These events have served as a forum for music by emerging and established composers of all artistic persuasions.
Stefania de Kenessey assumed the role of Vice-President in 1993 and was instrumental in presenting several NACUSA concerts held at The New School and at Merkin Concert Hall. Other composers who also served on the East Coast Chapter’s Board of Directors during the recent past have included Larry Bell, Robert Carl and Raoul Pleskow.
The organization looks forward to presenting its 75th anniversary concert during the 2007-08 season.
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