One of MacDowell’s dearest wishes was that America should have a musical public capable of judging in an intellectual, educated and sincere manner the merits of music and musicians, uninfluenced by traditions and reputations introduced from other countries. He wanted Americans to encourage their own men in Music, Art and Literature and not to respect a third-rate artist simply because he came from a foreign country having traditions of culture. He insisted on the American composer being treated on absolutely equal terms with the foreigner and according to his merits.
This account of that remarkable haven for creative artists known as the “MacDowell Colony,” situated at Peterboro’, New Hampshire, U.S.A., about three hours from Boston, is a reprint of the prospectus of the “Edward MacDowell Association.” The Colony owes a great debt to the untiring enthusiasm and energy of Mrs. MacDowell, who also finds time to give frequent recitals in various American cities of her late husband’s music. In the opinion of many who know of her work, she is only comparable to Madame Schumann, in her practical devotion to her great husband’s music and to the realisation of his ideals.
Speaking of nationalism in music—and the remark holds true of nationalism in all the arts—Edward MacDowell once said: “Before a people can find a musical writer to echo its genius, it must first possess men who truly represent the people, that is to say, men who, being part of the people, love the country for itself, and put into their music what the nation has put into its life.”
When MacDowell defined the essentials of a characteristic national culture, he did not know that his name would one day be associated with an enterprise ideally fitted to supply these essentials. MacDowell had a dream which he hoped might be converted into reality. This dream was shaped by influences from two different sources—an abandoned farm in New Hampshire and the American Academy at Rome.
He was one of the trustees of the American Academy at Rome. In this capacity he met intimately a remarkable group of men—John W. Alexander, Augustus St. Gaudens, Richard Watson Gilder, Charles McKim, and Frank D. Millet. Contact with these men proved an inspiration to MacDowell and convinced him that there was nothing more broadening to the worker in one art than affiliation with workers in the other arts.
In 1895 MacDowell purchased an old farm in Peterborough. In the deep woods, about ten minutes from the little farmhouse he built a log cabin:
“A house of dreams untold
It looks out over the whispering tree-tops
And faces the setting sun.”
There he did much of his best work and there he liked to dream of a day when other artists could work in just such beautiful and peaceful surroundings. This is the dream that has come true.