The MacDowell Era > Department of Music
Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Music, Announcement for 1897-98
Columbia University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
If MacDowell's own training and experience scarcely prepared him for his new career in higher education, he nevertheless enunciated a forceful and far-reaching vision for music at Columbia. The new Department of Music’s first Announcement, naming Professor of Music Edward Alexander MacDowell as its sole faculty, declared in its General Statement:
The aim of the instruction will be two-fold, first to teach music scientifically and technically, with a view to training musicians who shall be competent to teach and to compose. Second, to treat music historically and aesthetically as an element of liberal culture.
In 1896, this was a very progressive — if not unprecedented — view of music’s place in higher education. To present day observers, those notions are hardly revolutionary. They have proved to be prophetic at Columbia, however, where the possibilities for the study and experience of music are broader in scope, for both generalist and specialist, than MacDowell could have imagined.
The earliest music classes were open to anyone enrolled as a student in the University: College men, Barnard women, and special non-degree students (who today might attend the School of General Studies). MacDowell quickly became a widely admired teacher and mentor. One of his students, the writer Upton Sinclair, later called MacDowell "the one authentic man of genius I met at Columbia." He was noted for his kindness, generosity, and indefatigable work habits. These course descriptions illustrate the breadth of the Department of Music's curriculum from its earliest years, as well as the determination, vision, and energy of its founder and sole professor.