What is American Music? What does the idea of “American” music making mean for different University of Iowa artists and audiences?
In what ways have University of Iowa musicians, audiences, conductors, critics, and historians contributed to the musical identity of the United States? In what ways might they do so in the future?
The students of the Fall 2018 offering of the graduate musicology seminar in American music invite you to consider these questions as they relate to the place of American music in the past, present, and future of the University of Iowa School of Music.
The “Exploring Our Sounds” exhibit, which is on display throughout the Spring 2019 semester on the first floor of the Voxman Music Building, showcases our responses to these questions. Throughout the semester, we will be posting on the objects and themes of this exhibit in greater depth.
We hope you return to the blog and participate in “exploring our sounds.”
Planning Your Visit
Bring headphones and a mobile device so you can hear what you are reading about. Where possible, we have provided direct access to the different traditions of American music making discussed in the form of a digital music playlist. Examples were selected to further illustrate points in our exhibit text, and to encourage broader enjoyment of the diverse sounds and styles that make up the traditions of American music making at the University of Iowa. The Exhibit Playlist can be accessed at https://bit.ly/2TAom3t, or by scannable QR code at the exhibit.
Look out for theme clusters: “Curriculums,” “Student Musical Life,” and “Composers.” Over the semester, we conducted individual studies of the displayed items, drawn from the Rita Benton Music Library collections, and then worked together to put our independent work in dialogue with that of our colleagues. The “Curriculums,” “Student Musical Life,” and “Composers” areas of the exhibit are the results of these collaborative efforts.
Be ready to explore further. The dotted lines running throughout the exhibit are representative of the broader thematic connections that crisscross the different areas and aspects of the “Exploring Our Sounds” Exhibit. The expected and unexpected links that are made between “American” sounds, university programming, local community traditions, and more, should leave you thinking about the questions we asked above.
This playlist accompanies the “Exploring Our Sounds” exhibit, which is on display throughout the Spring 2019 semester on the first floor of the Voxman Music Building. Visit the Rita Benton Music Library website throughout the semester to read blog posts by the participating students, faculty, and library staff, which will examine the objects and themes of this exhibit in greater depth.
1. Excerpt, John Rapson Oral History, origins of the University of Iowa jazz program, 2018
2. Excerpt of Maria Schneider, Wyrgly, performed by Johnson County Landmark, 2000.
3. Old Gold performing “Valerie”
4. Gene Mills, University of Iowa Alma Mater, performed by the Hawkeye Marching Band, 2015
5. Excerpt of Aaron Copland, “The Promise of Living” from The Tender Land, performed by the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra, 2010.
6. Excerpt of Olly Wilson, Voices, performed by the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra, 1976.
7. Excerpt of Philip Bezanson, The Western Child, University of Iowa Opera Theater, 1959.
8. Michael Eckert, “Dialogo” from Three Pieces in Brazilian Style, performed by the University of Iowa Latin Jazz Ensemble, 2008.
9. Ernesto Nazareth, “Escorregando,” performed by Maurita Murphy Mead (clarinet)
10. Excerpt of Olly Wilson, Akwan
11. Ernst Krenek, Symphonic Elegy for String Orchestra (In Memoriam Anton Webern), performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Starting on March 31, 2017, the School of Music will host three Collage concerts celebrating the opening of the Voxman Music Building at 93. E. Burlington St. “Coming Home” is the theme of the year, especially for the many alumni who have journeyed to see the new space and hear music fills its halls. Historically, the University of Iowa School of Music has often grappled with the concept of “home,” especially since the program has spent only 37 years of a 110+ year existence in a centralized location.
1906-1971: Seeking a home
When the School of Music, Affiliated was established in 1906, it occupied space in what became Unity Hall (close to present day Phillips Hall). However, faculty studios were also in homes and ensembles rehearsed in MacBride or the Armory (near the current English Philosophy Building). In its second year, the school took over space in the Dey Building across from Unity Hall on the corner of Iowa and Clinton.
In a 1920 memo addressed to University president Walter A. Jessup, newly appointed School of Music director Philip Greeley Clapp outlined the dire facilities situation, including lack of soundproofing, “doors that will stay neither open nor shut,” a lack of practice rooms, no dedicated performance and rehearsal spaces for large ensembles, and insufficient security. He was pragmatic, recommending that the School would be happy to be “tucked into new or old building with other departments” but warns that “perhaps the others may not care for our company!”
These are not “frills” but crying needs…I cannot omit to point out that developing a department of music under present conditions is almost like building a house without tools. Certainly a ten years’ delay would stifle all growth!
By the 1930s, Clapp felt the School was reasonably well served by its facilities, especially with the addition in 1931 of what became known as the “School of Music Building” on the corner of Gilbert and Jefferson. In 1954, Clapp stepped down as director and was succeeded by Himie Voxman. Documentation shows that Himie started advocating for a new building early on in his tenure as Director. It was time for the Department to teach, practice, learn, rehearse, study, and perform under one roof.
1971-2008: A place to call home
In 1968, it was announced that a new fine arts complex would be constructed on the west bank of the Iowa River to house the School of Music and several other arts venues. The state supplied 2.7 million and several federal grants totaling 1.5 million funded the School of Music portion, though the entire complex would end up costing around 11 million. Architect Max Abramovitz (New York) designed the complex, which included a 700-seat recital hall named for P. G. Clapp, a 200-seat hall named for administrator Earl Harper, and a large 2,5000+ seat performance space that would be named in memory of UIowa president Virgil Hancher. The School opened in 1971 and Hancher Auditorium rolled out the red carpet in the fall of 1972. A headline in the Iowa Press-Citizen read, “Makeshift Days Ending at Iowa School of Music” – for the first time in its 60+ year history, the School had a place to call home.
The Building carried a generic title for many years. However, in 1995 the Board of Regents, at the urging of what Himie Voxman called, “a small but very determined and energetic group of my friends,” named the School of Music Building in honor of Mr. Voxman and his many accomplishments on behalf of the University of Iowa’s music programs. Mr. Voxman’s speech at the May 2, 1995 building dedication ceremony recognized that:
Most awards and honors are destined to be placed on the lapels of jackets, hung on walls, displayed on shelves or, in some cases, deposited in banks. I believe my honor is something special. It is so great and so significant it can only be worn in one place – my heart.
2008-2016: The loss of a home
The 2008 Flood of the Iowa River ended in tragedy for the Voxman Music Building. Deemed a loss by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Voxman Music Building was razed in 2013 with plans for a replacement facility launched in 2009. Over the next eight years, the School occupied over 20 different campus and community buildings in order to supply studios, office, practice rooms, classes, rehearsal and recording spaces, performance venues, and library services. After much discussion, the decision was made to separate Hancher Auditorium and the School of Music, the latter of which returned to a mere three blocks south on Clinton Street from its first home in Unity Hall on Clinton and Iowa.
2016-present: Coming home
In August 2016, the School of Music moved into its new home on the corner of Burlington and Clinton in downtown Iowa City. The 184,000 square foot building includes a 700-seat concert hall, 200-seat recital hall, organ recital hall, rehearsal rooms, the Rita Benton Music Library, practice rooms, classrooms, studios, offices, and a student commons. More importantly, it houses all of the faculty, staff, and students of the School of Music under a single roof, right in heart of Iowa City.
Be sure to check out the “Building a School of Music” exhibit, which will be on display from April-July in the first floor hallway case located outside of the School of Music offices and across from the Rita Benton Music Library.
The University of Iowa Libraries will play host to a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio August 29-September 25. The Folio and accompanying exhibit, featuring items from the Folger Library and University of Iowa Special Collections, will be housed in the Libraries’ Gallery (located on the first floor near the north entrance).
The Grand Opening event will take place on August 29th at 10am in the North Lobby of the Main Library.
A series of noontime recitals will take place throughout the month of September featuring music from the era of Shakespeare or compositions inspired by the Bard.
Chamber Singers of Iowa City on September 14th, 12:10pm-12:45pm
Students from the School of Music Voice Studios on September 21st and 28th, 12:10pm-12:45pm
Come hear some great music and while viewing this cultural treasure!