The Eastman School of Music has commenced a year-long celebration of its 90th anniversary year, and is commemorating the school’s integral role in music education with a series of intricate and informative archival exhibits.
David Peter Coppen, a special collections librarian and archivist at Eastman, curated the exhibits, the first of which is currently on display on the second floor of Eastman’s historic Sibley Music Library, which is the largest academic music library in North America. The exhibits feature photographs, concert programs, reviews and letters, and focus primarily on student achievement.
“It’s basically a year-long series of exhibits to put the focus and the spotlight on specific milestones of Eastman’s performance history,” Coppen said. “The Eastman School has had such a rich and interesting history that a milestone like the 90th anniversary is the perfect occasion to look back and celebrate.”
Part one of the series currently on display traces the history of Eastman student orchestras over the past 90 years, and took Coppen hours of time-consuming yet “greatly rewarding” work, he said.
The exhibit, which will be on display through Friday, Oct. 14, includes the program from the first public performance of the then-named Student Orchestra on May 18, 1923 and follows the history of the orchestra through its division into the Eastman Philharmonia and the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s.
Part two of the series will cover active student orchestras in the 1950s and will be on display from Monday, Oct. 17 through Friday, Nov. 18. The last installment of the exhibition, which will be on display from Monday, Nov. 21 through Dec. 31, chronicles the orchestras from 1958, when the Eastman Philharmonia was founded, to the present day.
“It’s a huge learning experience,” Coppen said of the process of compiling the exhibits. “But you come out of it knowing that much more about the institution and the history of the people who have been here.”
Coppen has planned exhibits for the rest of this year to coincide with relevant events and concerts at Eastman. Two jazz-themed exhibits that will be on display for all of June will correspond with the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival to be held in June 2012. Coppen has also planned an exhibit to be displayed during the month of March that highlights the achievements of women and will coincide with Eastman’s Women in Music Festival.
Exhibits on Eastman’s rich traditions in radio will also be on display, as Coppen said he thinks radio is a “part of history that’s not too remembered these days.”
In the 1930s and 1940s, performances in Kilbourn Hall and Eastman Theatre were broadcast directly to the public via Eastman’s very own radio transmitter on top of the school and have been called “prolific” for their role in bringing music directly to people’s homes. The “Eastman on the Airwaves” exhibit will be displayed from Friday, Jan. 6 through Friday, Feb. 17.
“Given that the Eastman School has served as a leader in so many aspects of music in America in the 20th century, we feel delighted about the work being done by David Peter Coppen and his colleagues in Sibley,” Dean of the Eastman School of Music Douglas Lowry said. “Studying our history gives us a sense of perspective, reminds us of our roles and helps us position ourselves in time.”
Buletti is a member of the class of 2013.