The image of Theodore Thomas that appears opposite the title page of Charles Edward Russell's The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas

The image of Theodore Thomas that appears opposite the title page of Charles Edward Russell’s The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas

Wishing a very happy birthday to our founder and first music director Theodore Thomas on the occasion of his 180th birthday!

“Grateful Chicago has erected upon its beautiful lake front a monument to his memory. New Hampshire has named one of its mountains in his honor. Neither monument nor mountain seems more permanent than the effect of his life, for that will go on when there shall be no more trace of his name and little of the age in which he lived. If I say that no other man of his period exerted upon mankind an influence so great and lasting, I shall be looked upon as lunatic, although that is what I honestly believe. Is it so mad a thought? Statesmen come and fill the world’s horizon and din the world’s ears and so pass with their rub-a-dubs. The conspicuous men of one generation are the scoffing of the next and forgotten by the next. Is there a reputation of Theodore Thomas’s time that careful men would insure for two hundred years? His own is already perishing; but the thinkings of a people go on forever. There are thousands of homes in America where music is a pervasive influence because of this man’s endeavors. The ramifications of such an influence will never stop.

Image of Felsengarten, Thomas's summer home, and Mount Theodore Thomas in Bethlehem, New Hampshire

Image of Felsengarten, Thomas’s summer home, on Mount Theodore Thomas in Bethlehem, New Hampshire (from Thomas’s Memoirs, edited by Rose Fay Thomas)

“A work so stupendous required a most unusual combination of endowments and qualities. Their mingling in this man seems outside of chance. So far as we can see now, with less of any of his attributes, less of iron will, less of the sense of a high summons, less of what was called his autocratic spirit, less of his human sympathies, even less of his sensitiveness, he could never have done it. An artist, he lived in the world of men; all human, he lived in the world of art. Forty-three years of ceaseless and often desperate struggle passed between the time he first raised a baton over a concert orchestra and the time when he laid it down forever. If any man ever sounded out this life and what life means and what life can give of labor sorrow, pain, trouble, and the supernal joys of achievement, it was Theodore Thomas.”

—excerpt from The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas by Charles Edward Russell, 1927.

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