Willow Grove Park - Walter Damrosch
Walter Damrosch  
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Walter Damrosch

Different generations can often point to a particular personality who served as a music advocate or teacher.

Today it is Wynton Marsallis who both performs and instructs through educational materials and on public radio and television.

In the 50's it was Leonard Bernstein and his TV specials with the New York Philharmonic.

In the 30's it was Walter Damrosch.

Today, Damrosch is not a well-recognized name. However, he may have been the most important early figures in the evolution of America's classical music. He also played a pivotal role in Willow Grove Park:

In 1896, Frederick Innes and his band had played the entire first season. But he was a rather stiff performer and the music, although without flaw, was sometimes a little sterile. Damrosch, the conductor of New York Symphony, which later merged with the Philharmonic, wanted to keep his musicians employed through the summer and made a proposal to the park management. So the story goes, that if he and his orchestra didn’t make more money and bring in larger audiences than there was in the first season, that Damrosch, himself would make up the financial difference. But he was very popular and flamboyant, and he and his orchestra returned for an another 6 engagements.

After his years at Willow Grove Park he became very involved with radio. Since he had performed for many people live, he found he now could reach millions through this new medium. He was the host of national broadcasts on NBC and organized his orchestral programming from selections for listeners completely unfamiliar with the classics, to selections for listeners who knew the classics well.

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