Personal Anecdotes About the Founders of the American Music Center John Duffy, Composer; Founder and Former Executive Director of Meet The Composer
John Duffy photo by Jay K. Hoffman courtesy of John Duffy The AMC was a rich haven for me during my student days. How glad I was to be there as it was the only place to see and study scores by living American composers. It was there that I first encountered Aaron Copland, which… Read more »
The AMC was a rich haven for me during my student days. How glad I was to be there as it was the only place to see and study scores by living American composers. It was there that I first encountered Aaron Copland, which led to my studying with him at Tanglewood. My sense of public, political, and professional stewardship was encouraged through contact with Copland. Like him, I wanted to bring music to a large public, to earn a living composing, and to help my fellow musician/composers. It required developing a new mindset – learning about: contracts, ownership of one’s music, residuals, composing for theatre, documentary films, and other forms of collaborative work. All of this I brought to Meet The Composer, and because, like Copland, I loved music, and composers, and had faith, it worked. I also learned that countless people were there to help in every way possible. From Copland I grew to see with greater clarity, that music was a social art, honed by composing steadily for public use. These insights were etched deeply into MTC’s credo, and contributed, in large measure to the good of music, composers, and our society. His torch, his beaming beacon was kept aflame. MTC became a safe, caring, helpful haven for all composers. And our programs of commissions, residencies, collaborations, publications, composer – public encounters, music for students, film, theatre dance, and a dedication to unity and fairness kept his vision alive.
From day one of my work at MTC, Otto Luening was a constant source of encouragement, good cheer, and a wellspring of history. The phone would ring:
“Hello John, this is Otto. I want to say what a fabulous job, an invaluable service you, and your staff are doing for composers and music. Wherever I go I see MTC. Keep it up. And I like the fact that music of all kinds is represented. We’ve not had that before. And the new programs were unheard of in my day.”
Often I’d met Otto on Riverside Drive, and his kindness and authentic spirit were unique. His sense of fairness, fellowship, and love of music were constant and selfless. He seemed always ready to hold the banner high for the principles imbedded in Meet The Composer, to offer his time and his counsel, and to give his last breath to what would make our world better. He was a genuine champ.