Willow Grove Park - Walter Damrosch: Symphony in the Home
Walter Damrosch: Symphony in the Home  
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Bringing Symphony Into the Home
Walter Damrosch
As told to Hazel Gertrude Kinscella

"Good morning, my dear children!"
When this greeting came over the air from New York, one Friday morning, to a schoolroom in Ohio, …several of the fifty little children answered, almost unconsciously, "Good morning, Mr. Damrosch!".
Then followed a half-hour radio concert devoted this week to "Fun in Music.", the music being interspersed with humorous and friendly remarks. I could readily understand the great appeal of Walter Damrosch to the hearts of the American radio audience.

Bringing the symphony into the home is a responsibility utterly unparalleled in all my musical work. During my forty years with the New York Symphony, I could only be in one place at a time. Now, thanks to the radio, we are giving concerts for millions, thru the "musical university of the air."
Never have I been so happy. I believe we are making a path for a new current of cultural development in America. We played to two million children and young people last year. This year there are five million. We are bringing music to the arid back country where there is no music, to the children of the tenements, to those too poor to go to concerts. I can see those children in a one-room schoolhouse out in Texas or up north in the forests, or out in the desert, happily listening. I receive letters from their mothers, too, who stop their work to listen.
Music is for all ages, but it is not only for the metropolitan centers where parents and children attend symphony concerts. Especially am I interested in the children. If children hear a sufficient amount of fine music when they are young, they will not be content to live without it when they are older. This can be accomplished through broadcasting, although I wish to emphasize that these concerts must never be considered a substitute for local instruction. There already are indications that these weekly concerts stimulate children to take up a personal study of instrumental music as well as organize school orchestras.
Comparison of musical works asked for by radio audiences this year with those requested three years ago reveals a remarkable development of taste among American people… Three years ago the requests were of a decidedly more popular nature – works demanding a less fine understanding of music.
Revolutionary discoveries and inventions during these same three years have also brought about enormous improvement in orchestral broadcasting. Any conductor can now achieve almost perfect results, providing he observes a few simple laws of radio. We have some of the greatest engineering minds of the country at work, and they have accomplished wonders. In fact I can say that hardly any technical difficulties remain. If, under the new conditions, the results of radiocasting a symphonic program are not satisfactory, the conductor himself is to blame.
Many of the old handicaps have been eliminated thru the recent invention of the condenser microphone. It is no longer necessary to have several microphones placed in front of and above the orchestra. Instead, we have one single microphone so delicately constructed that it is able to transmit the softest pianissimos and withstand the loudest fortissimos… I can now conduct my orchestra just as I would at Carnegie Hall. My first endeavor is to make the children love music by stimulating their imaginations and enabling them to see that music is a language which portrays what they themselves can feel.
I hope strongly that this influence and new interest which I am thus able to awaken in the children at school will inevitably be transplanted into their home life and home activities. Already I hear of thousands of children who are taking up, eagerly, the study of orchestral instruments.
A remarkable by-product of the morning radio-concert hour is that at the same time that the children are listening in at their respective schools thousands of mothers also have their radios turned on at home while they are doing their housework.

The letters which come from these homes are among my greatest treasures. More than fifty thousand letters have been received during the last several months and filed away.

"Last year we listened to your programs in a neighbor's house just about a minute's walk from the schoolhouse. This year hose neighbors have closed their home and we walk three-quarters of a mile to listen. When winter starts in and we start out for our walk, we shall not mind the deep snow nor the zero weather, for we shall be looking forward to your cheery 'Good morning, my good children".

"When the snow falls and the air is chilly, won't you think of a little country school nestled among the Berkshire Hills, with its nine pupils and their teacher eagerly anticipating your warm greetings?"

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