Marshall Bialosky, President of the National Association of Composers, USA (NACUSA), says it is the “second oldest composers group in America, according to me.” Founded in 1933, it is one of the oldest organizations for the promotion and development of American music. The organization has chapters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baton Rouge, Boston and New York, Philadelphia, and the Tidewater region of Virginia. It sponsors a number of concerts each year, featuring music by its over 600 members.
Founded by San Francisco-based composer Henry Hadley, the organization was at first called the National Association of American Composers and Conductors. According to Bialosky: “They really used to give big, big concerts, even orchestral concerts in New York. There was a thing called the Henry Hadley Medal and they gave it to Koussevitsky and Bernstein and a lot of big-name people.” Bialosky continues, “When the group started up they were one of the few groups who were playing music by American composers. The League of Composers, used to have these very, very fancy concerts at Town Hall when Schoenberg came to America, or Prokofiev, or Bartók. There wasn’t really a place where the ‘average Joe on the street’ composer could get his music played, unless you were a world-famous authority you didn’t get much performance out of the League of Composers. I’m speculating, but I think that’s why he [Hadley] started it.”
Sadly, Hadley died after seeing the organization in existence for only four years, but his wife took up the torch and ran the organization for the next forty years. After her death, the association began to fall apart, but in 1975 it was taken over by UCLA professor and composer John Vincent. He moved to headquarters to Los Angeles, dropped the conductors (of which there were few), and changed the name to NACUSA. Vincent died after about a year, and since then it has been run by people who were working with him, including Mr. Bialosky, “I’ve been president for 22 years.”
In addition to the ten or so concerts a year across the country, NACUSA publishes a newsletter and holds a national contest for young composers ages 18-30. They also honor people that have been helpful to modern music.
From Help! New Music Service Organizations Answer the Call
by Karissa Krenz
© 1999 NewMusicBox