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Music for the American People

The Lewisohn Stadium Concerts

Jonathan Stern
July 15, 2019

256 pp.

21 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1-57647-323-8

Paperback 6X9 $38.00

Out-of-Print. This book is no longer available from Pendragon Press.


For many New Yorkers of a certain age, mention of Lewisohn Stadium conjures many fond memories of concerts of beautiful music performed in most cases by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on warm summer evenings outdoors. Music for the American People: The Lewisohn Stadium Concerts brings back those memories while introducing them to those who are either too young to remember or were born years after the Stadium’s razing in 1973. Although several books discuss either the early years of the Stadium Concerts or the life of Stadium Concerts Chairperson Minnie Guggenheimer, this is the first book ever to discuss the concerts themselves. In particular, the book focuses on the conductors, soloists, and repertoire in a way never undertaken before by any scholar. While the book explores the Stadium Concerts classical orchestra canon to a large extent, author Jonathan Stern emphasizes in particular the effect the festival had on American music. The book discusses how the Stadium Concerts began in an era in which American classical music was championed like it rarely has been. It also makes the case that the Stadium Concerts may have done more for contemporary American music than any other musical institution of the early twentieth century through its frequent advocacy of the music of George Gershwin. This advocacy was soon taken up by other summer orchestra festivals that were founded after the birth of the Stadium Concerts. Among these festivals were the Hollywood Bowl Concerts, Tanglewood, Ravinia, and the Robin Hood Dell concerts, all of which are also discussed towards the end of the book. Readers will also learn how the Stadium Concerts coped with the challenges faced by America in general, not only surviving wars and the Great Depression but even thriving artistically and otherwise during these troubling times. Lewisohn Stadium was a summer home away from home for millions of New Yorkers, enabling them to put aside their differences and join together in enjoying great music performed by many of the world’s leading performers. In an era when people from all walks of life sought to better themselves in ways not often seen today, New Yorkers often said to each other, “Meet me at the Stadium.” As such, Music for the American People: The Lewisohn Stadium Concerts fills a much-needed void in music and New York City scholarship while recounting a particularly happy chapter in the history of New York City culture.


Jonathan Stern: Jonathan Stern is an independent musicologist who studied musicology at CUNY and trombone at both the Eastman and Manhattan Schools of Music. He counts among his many wonderful trombone teachers members of the New York Philharmonic, Rochester Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera Orchestras. For many years, he was active as a free-lance low brass player in the New York tri-state area, performing with many orchestras, concert bands and brass bands as well as in many shows. Highlights of his life as a low brass player include performances at the Interlochen, Tanglewood and Aspen Music Festivals. He has also been a devoted music teacher and has served on the faculties of several schools in the New York City school system as well as at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Dr. Stern was at one point a board member of the Gustav Mahler Society of New York and, as a huge fan of filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, recently participated in Episode 16 of, a podcast devoted to Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece of horror, The Shining. This is his first book.

As a scholar, his primary interest is twentieth century music with an emphasis on American symphony orchestras and the orchestra canon as it evolved during the course of the century. In addition to Mahler, his favorite composers include somewhat conservative American composers like Howard Hanson and Samuel Barber, maverick composers Edgard Varèse, John Cage and Morton Feldman, and, thanks largely to his work on the Lewisohn Stadium Concerts, centrist composers George Gershwin and Aaron Copland.

He resides in Westchester County, New York.

BA in English (Music Minor), University of Rochester, 1992 MM in Orchestral Performance (Trombone), Manhattan School of Music, 1995 PhD in Musicology, CUNY, 2009 MS in Library Science, Long Island University, 2013


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