Adding to its existing programs in orchestral instruments and piano, the school established a vocal department in 1927 and a master’s program in music education in 1934. The student theater organization Scotch’n’Soda formed in 1937, and has served as the workshop for such successful Broadway musicals as Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin (1967).
Student ensembles were in such demand for events in Pittsburgh that in the late 1930s through the 1940s the school had to limit its service to the community in order to focus on its educational mission. The school remained relatively small compared to its peer institutions, in harmony with its emphasis on individual, conservatory-style instruction.
One of the most gifted students in the school’s history, legendary pianist Earl Wild, entered the Department of Music in 1933 and played in the first ever coast-to-coast live radio broadcast of a concert with the Carnegie Symphony Orchestra in 1936. Wild subsequently enjoyed immense success as a performing and recording artist and returned to Carnegie Mellon University as a faculty member in 1991.
Initiating a long tradition of diversity among the faculty and student body in the mid 1930s (years before many other institutions), the School of Music graduated its first black students, Lawrence W. Peeler and James Miller – who was one of jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal’s teachers and acknowledged “masters.”
On Eugene Ormandy’s recommendation, Frederic Dorian joined the Department of Music faculty in 1938. A founding member of Arnold Schoenberg’s Society for Private Performances, Dorian taught music history and succeeded O’Brien as the orchestra’s conductor. His advocacy contributed to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts in the United States.
The Great Depression gripped the world, yet a paragraph in the 1935 Thistle seems strangely current:
“The courage and spirit that the senior class of ’35 of the College of Fine Arts has shown during these past years are but a fraction of the courage and determination it will need from this point on, for it is going out to offer art and beauty to a world which is struggling for grim necessities.”
The music faculty that year included the Dean of the College, Glendenning Keeble (referred to as “Chairman of the Faculty”, and who taught History of Music and Aesthetics), and:
- Susan Trowbridge Canfield, Assistant Professor of Public School Music
- Joseph Charles Derdeyn, Instructor of Violoncello
- Selmar Janson, Associate Professor of Piano
- Huldah Jane Kenley, Assistant Professor of Public School Music
- Cecil Kitcat, Instructor in Dalcroze Eurhythmics
- Caspar Petrus Koch, Instructor in Piano and Organ
- Mildred Ethel Lawton, Curator, Department of Music
- Karl August Malcherek, Associate Professor of Violin
- James Vick O’Brien, Professor of Musical Composition and Conductor of Orchestra; Head of Department of Music
- Charles A. H. Pearson, Instructor in Music
- Theodore Rentz, Assistant Professor of Violin
- Henry Kloman Schmidt, Assistant Professor of Piano
- Jean Dagg Seaman, Associate Professor of Singing
Professor Malcherek also directed both the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs.
Upon the passing of founding director E. F. Sullivan in 1938, J. Vick O’Brien became the second Director of the Kiltie Band, a post he would hold until 1941, when the directorship passed to James Morrow.