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MacDowell, Edward

MacDowell, Edward

Born in 1860


Inducted in 2000

Edward MacDowell, born in 1960, began piano lessons when he was eight-years-old. In April 1876, MacDowell went to Paris to study piano privately. He spent much of his time composing, and attending theory classes at the Conservatory. There he won a scholarship, but after hearing Nicolai Rubinstein perform on the piano, MacDowell withdrew from the Conservatory to study under German pedagogical methods. Early in 1881, just twenty, MacDowell was appointed a piano instructor at the Darmstadt Conservatory. It was about this time, in 1882, at his successful performance of his First Modern Suite, recommended by Liszt, that he made the decision to devote his time to composition, his true calling. Benjamin Johnson Lang, a friend to MacDowell and one of the arbiters of musical taste in Boston, convinced MacDowell to move to the Boston area to pursue his career as a composer, performer, and teacher. He made his American debut in Boston as composer-pianist at a Kneisel Quartet concert at Chickering Hall, November 19, 1888, but soon after he left to accept an appointment as Columbia University’s first professor of music. It was during this period that most of the major works on which his reputation as a composer rests were created. But following a clash with the new president, Nicholas Murray Butler, over the attempt to remove music from the liberal arts curriculum, MacDowell tendered his resignation in 1904. After leaving Columbia MacDowell remained in New York, teaching privately and working on behalf of the National Academy of Arts and Letters (he was one of its seven founders), and the American Academy in Rome. However, in December 1904, he was showing definite signs of mental illness due to a traffic accident in earlier years. He died from paresis (general paralytica) in Manhattan on January 23, 1908.