In the early-twentieth-century United States, Jewish and European immigrant scholars, musicians, and composers dominated the academic, orchestral, film and popular music scenes. While some of these musicians immigrated voluntarily, others,…
In the early-twentieth-century United States, Jewish and European immigrant scholars, musicians, and composers dominated the academic, orchestral, film and popular music scenes. While some of these musicians immigrated voluntarily, others, having fled the genocide of the Holocaust, were forced into exile due to religious and political persecution. Musicians were often targeted by the Nazi regime for performing and advancing banned music, composing modernist works, or for their religious or political beliefs. The United States upheld strict, pre-World War Two immigration quotas and laws that limited relocation. Specialized rescue agencies arose to help these exiles settle in the United States.
Meanwhile in 1924, American composer Mark Brunswick (1902-1971) moved to Europe and later studied with Nadia Boulanger. He found his niche among members of the Second Viennese School. Brunswick returned to the United States in 1938 and founded the National Committee for Refugee Musicians (NCRM), originally called the Placement Committee for German and Austrian Musicians, to aid in the relocation and job placement of at-risk musicians and their families during World War Two.
This thesis briefly explores Brunswick’s life, and then more closely addresses the formation of the NCRM, its members, those who received aid, and partnering organizations. Finally, cases in point illustrate the varied ways in which the NCRM helped musicians in exile. Brunswick and the Committee played a major role in American musical history, yet no major studies have focused on them. With the NCRM’s assistance, many refugees thrived in and contributed to America’s musical landscape. By exploring letters, memoranda, and other unpublished archival documents, I will show how Brunswick and the NCRM affected U.S. musical life beginning in the 1930s. The positive effects of this germinal group endure today.