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

3. The Center Opens

MARION BAUER: A…source of encouragement to American composers was the founding of the American Music Center for the purpose of disseminating American works, and as a central depot for unpublished and published scores…1

HARRISON KERR: The plans took shape during the Fall of 1939…2

OTTO LUENING: The center was opened in November 1939…3

HOWARD HANSON: Am scheduled to conduct a radio program Saturday morning. Regret that I cannot be with you. 4

QUINCY PORTER: It was decided that the place might be called American Music Center. 5

OTTO LUENING: Mary Howe suggested that we use the name. 6

QUINCY PORTER: Can’t we get a luscious blonde to get the best of the male trade without having to go all the way up to $25? According to the extraordinary statistics you got from Mix and White, you ought to be able to get Garbo for $25. Anyway it goes without saying that a lot depends on getting the right person, and I think that they ought to be very intelligent as well as beautiful. 7

OTTO LUENING: In case things get started soon, Kerr says that for the beginning he would be willing and able to keep an eye on things if he had a capable secretary to help him. 8

QUINCY PORTER: On the question of executive secretary, various possibilities were discussed from various angles, but it was decided to agree on Kerr, offering him a guarantee of $300 to set up the Center. 9

OTTO LUENING: Kerr was appointed by them as Executive Secretary to set up the Music Center. 10

HARRISON KERR: …I had agreed to set up the Center and keep an eye on it, but that I could not assume full responsibility except on a salary basis. 11

AARON COPLAND: Announcements were sent to newspapers in various cities. 12

OTTO LUENING: A press release announcing the center as a nonprofit dealer for American music from all publishers at list price appeared in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland, and Los Angeles. Some newspapers ran Sunday articles. 13

HARRISON KERR: Propaganda should be made for the use of the Center for all matters pertaining to American music. 14



1. Cited from Twentieth Century Music; How It Developed, How To Listen To It by Marion Bauer [New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1947] Order From Amazon

2. Cited from “The American Music Center” by Harrison Kerr, Music Librarians Association Notes (2nd Series) I/3, June 1944; archived at the American Music Center.

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 Howard Hanson’s Western Union Telegram to Otto Luening, November 10, 1939. Archived in Otto Luening’s American Music Center Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts JPB 94-7, Series 4 Box 4.

5. Cited from Quincy Porter’s minutes of the meeting of the Council for the Advancement and Diffusion of American Music on November 11, 1939 (In attendance: Marion Bauer, Lehman Engel [in absence of Aaron Copland], Otto Luening, Quincy Porter. Archived in Otto Luening’s American Music Center Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, JPB 94-7 Series 4 Box 4.

6. Cited from a 1975 typed manuscript by Otto Luening outlining the history of the American Music Center. Archived in Otto Luening’s American Music Center Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, JPB 94-7 Series 4 Box 6.

7. Cited from Quincy Porter’s Letter to Otto Luening, October 9, 1939. Archived in Otto Luening’s American Music Center Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, JPB 94-7 Series 4 Box 4.

8. Cited from Otto Luening’s Letter to Quincy Porter, March 24, 1939. Archived in Otto Luening’s American Music Center Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, JPB 94-7 Series 4 Box 4.

9. Cited from Quincy Porter’s minutes of the meeting of the Council for the Advancement and Diffusion of American Music on November 11, 1939. Members present: Quincy Porter, Otto Luening, Marion Bauer and Lehman Engel [in absence of Aaron Copland]. From Otto Luening’s American Music Center Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, JPB 94-7 Series 4 Box 4.

10. Cited from Otto Luening’s Letter to Henry Moe, September 7, 1942. Archived in Otto Luening’s American Music Center Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, JPB 94-7 Series 4 Box 4.

11. Cited from Harrison Kerr’s Letter to Otto Luening, May 2, 1940. Archived in Otto Luening’s American Music Center Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, JPB 94-7 Series 4 Box 4.

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

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

14. Cited from Harrison Kerr’s Letter to Otto Luening, September 24, 1941. Archived in Otto Luening’s American Music Center Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, JPB 94-7 Series 4 Box 4.