A “Virtual Séance” with the Founders of the American Music Center

9. Later History of the American Music Center

OTTO LUENING: During and after World War II, the federal government saw the value of music as a cultural weapon. From 1945 to 1949 the AMC operated as operating agent for the Department of State (music division and Division of Cultural Cooperation), the Library of Congress and the Pan-American Union (music division) and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in New York. In 1946, the State Department corresponded with Kerr about establishing libraries of American music in Europe. This and the deposits in Latin America led to the establishment of music libraries under the United States Information Agency throughout the world. The center helped to move over one hundred thousand scores of American music from publishers’ shelves into these libraries… Ray Green came to the AMC as Executive Secretary in December 1948. 1

AARON COPLAND: The Center, although dependant on funding sources, had grown and prospered. 2

OTTO LUENING: Mrs. Ann M. Gannett and the National Federation of Music Clubs were our major supporters for several years. Then, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) took over. 3

QUINCY PORTER: It is quite possible that a questionnaire recently sent out to a large number of American composers by the American Music Center would be of some use in making up a list of new works (or somewhat forgotten older ones). The composers were asked their own opinion about works which they consider of importance which did not, or do not at present, receive the recognition they deserve – works not only of their own, but by other American composers. 4

OTTO LUENING: Together with Ray Green and Ernst Bacon, I worked on an elaborate proposal to commission, perform, and record American compositions under a grant from the Ford Foundation. This involved six symphony orchestras, those of Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Knoxville, Oklahoma City and Washington DC, and Composers Recordings, Inc. Boston dropped out and Rochester was added… The 1957 fall board meeting of AMC was poorly attended, and the people commiserated because finances were so bad that the Center couldn’t possibly survive. But Green and I insisted that we wait for the decision from Ford. Two weeks later, [Edward] D’Arms…who was with the Ford Foundation… called saying that he had tried to get in touch with the AMC office but that nobody was there. (The secretary had taken a day off because there was no business.) D’Arms wanted to tell me that the Ford Foundation had granted us $210,000 for the commissioning project. When this was announced on the front page of the New York Times it made a significant impression. The attendance at the next board meeting was one hundred percent… Subsequent presidents were Hugo Weisgall, Ezra Laderman , Leo Kraft, and Charles Dodge, who with the help of professional executive secretaries Toni Greenberg and Margaret Jory have led the center in new directions. In 1963 the American Music Center was declared by the National Music Council to be the official United States information center for music. 5

AARON COPLAND: After being actively involved with the AMC for many years, I was awarded their “Letter of Distinction” in 1970, and then again in 1975. 6

OTTO LUENING: For the next twenty years I served as chairman of various AMC boards that included many of our prominent American composers. I was often in the office in New York and the rest of the time I supervised the center by mail, telephone, and telegram from wherever my travels took me. 7

AARON COPLAND: Along with many of our country’s composers, I am still a proud member of the American Music Center. 8



1. Cited from The Odyssey of an American Composer: the Autobiography of Otto Luening [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980] Order from Amazon.

.2 Cited from Copland: 1900 Through 1942 by Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984] Order from Amazon.

3. Cited from The Odyssey of an American Composer: the Autobiography of Otto Luening [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980] Order from Amazon

4. Cited from Quincy Porter’s Letter to Karl Kruger, November 12, 1950. Archived in the Quincy Porter Papers at the Yale University Music Library.

5. Cited from The Odyssey of an American Composer: the Autobiography of Otto Luening [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980] Order from Amazon.

6. Cited from Copland: 1900 Through 1942 by Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984] Order from Amazon.

7. Cited from The Odyssey of an American Composer: the Autobiography of Otto Luening [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980] Order from Amazon.

8. Cited from Copland: 1900 Through 1942 by Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984] Order from Amazon.