Department of Music Records
Music Department at Smith College:
When Smith College opened in 1875 the study of music was conducted in a conservatory located in Pierce Hall, adjacent to College Hall. There, professors George W. Steele and J. Wells Champney instructed the students three times per week. From 1877 to 1879 a school of music was organized due to high demand from students wishing to study. The demand was so high that the conservatory soon became too small and inadequate for the number of students, and in 1880 the bowling alley in the gymnasium was converted into music rooms and the first story of the building was given up entirely to the music program. With demand for music instruction ever-increasing, the Executive Committee secured plans for a new building which was opened during the 1882-1883 college year. At that time, Smith College was believed by many to be the finest music school in the country. In 1903, Music became a department of the college, while the study of performance for credit continued to be offered within a liberal arts program, which was unusual for colleges at that time. In 1924 the Music Department moved to the newly constructed Sage Hall, and in 1968 the neighboring Werner Josten Library of the Performing Arts was built to house one of the finest undergraduate music libraries in the country. Extensive renovations to Sage Hall in 1989-90 resulted in the construction of Earle Recital Hall and the reconfiguration of the main auditorium, re-christened Sweeney Concert Hall, into an acoustically ideal hall for performances ranging from solo recitals to small orchestral concerts. Sweeney Concert Hall is the venue for the department's acclaimed concert series. The department's facilities include numerous practice rooms with grand pianos, an electro-acoustic music studio, and a digital classroom equipped with state-of-the-art computer workstations. Student participation outside of the classroom was equally important. Department clubs were formed as early as 1880, when the first Glee Club was formed and disbanded the same year and later re-formed in 1888. Since 1880 musical clubs have had a presence in the Smith community: the Noteables, Chamber Singers, the All-Smith Choir, Class Choirs, the Smith College Oratorio Chorus, Chamber Orchestra, String Orchestra Symphony Orchestra, the Smith-Amherst Orchestra, the training Orchestra and the Smiffenpoofs. Concerts and recitals have been held from 1876 to the present.
The Valley Music Press:
The Valley Music Press was established in 1942 by Ross Lee Finney, then a faculty member at Smith College, and John Verral. For a number of years Verral was based at Mount Holyoke College as part of the music departments of Smith College and Mt. Holyoke College and was supported by these two institutions. The Valley Music Press was unique because it was the only university press in the country devoted to the publication of modern American music. It was a non-profit organization for the distribution at moderate price of music by contemporary composers. Works were chosen as being practical for performance, rewarding for study, and varied both in medium and in place in the contemporary scene. As of 1962, the press had 55 publications on hand. Needless to say, the business details were many and varied. Meetings of the Executive Committee were held during the year to discuss new music to be published. It was felt that the time had come for the Press to become a member of the Smith College publications, and that it would be necessary to sever its connection with Mount Holyoke College. President Mendenhall gave his support to this goal, and also arranged for the sum of $400.00 annually to be provided by Smith College towards operating expenses of the Press. (Formerly, $200.00 came from the Music Department at Smith College and $200.00 from Mount Holyoke College.) It was also agreed that the name would be changed to signify the end of the original partnership. Hence, the Press was renamed the New Valley Music Press (NVMP) of Smith College. The NVMP ceased publication in December of 1996.