In a letter dated October 10, 1935 to Williams College President Tyler Dennett, Whiteman wrote that he was “still very much interested in the idea of a museum of American music at Williams College.” Whiteman had been collecting arrangements, records, and instruments throughout his career and believed this material should be accessible and available to the public for educational purposes. Whiteman offered to give a concert in New York City “probably at Carnegie” to raise “a goodly sum for a wing to your Art Museum.” He wrote, “The only strings I attach to this offer is that [the museum] be accessible to everyone interested in the study of American music, especially the students of modern American music who are at present really without any facilities or material. There should be no charges of any kind attached to the museum as fees might stand in the way of those most interested.”
Whiteman’s encouragement of young musicians extended beyond the desire to make his own collections accessible. In honor of his mother, he established the Elfrieda Whiteman Scholarship, which was to support young American composers. The award provided two years’ tuition to any college, university, or music school the winner chose, along with a $25.00 weekly stipend. In the same letter to President Dennett, Whiteman wrote, “This year [the scholarship] was won by a 20 year old boy from Rochester who set to music Carl Sandburg’s poem, ‘Good Morning America’. Frankly, he was at a loss to decide on either a college or university and selected a private music school in New York.” The student to whom Whiteman referred was David Diamond, who went on to become the internationally acclaimed composer of film scores, ballets, and 11 symphonies.
Read Whiteman’s full letter below:
Written by Laurel Rhame, Project Archivist