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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: May 2020

Chapter IX - The University of California at Berkeley (1937-39)


Go West Young Man.

(Horace Greeley)

He would be a tremendous asset to any music

department in the country.

(Roger Sessions)


Since his second Wellesley College appointment was only for the February-June 1936 term, Thompson remained on the permanent job search merry-go-round he had ridden more than a few times. During summer 1936 he and his family spent some time in New York before he set off for the White Top Folk Festival in Grayson County in the Blue Ridge Highlands of Vir¬ginia. This festival, which ran between 1931 and 1939, was organized by John A. Blakemore, Annabel Morris Buchanan, and John Powell. Although we do not know the number of visitors in 1936, the previous year in excess of ten thousand heard more than three hundred performers; however, Afri¬can-American performers were not allowed to participate. During the fall and winter Thompson was busy with Harvard Visiting Committee activities and correspondence with Oliver Strunk and staff at the Library of Congress concerning a performance of The Wind in the Willows that ultimately took place on March 11, 1937. Only sketchy information exists about his other activities between the end of his Wellesley stint and his position in Berkeley, though he continued to consider teaching positions.

He had in fact been courted by several institutions with offers to head their music departments, but his busy schedule of diverse duties as well as his desire not to be part of a “diploma mill” led him to reject them. What is clear, however, is that in late February or early March 1937 Thompson was contacted about a potential position at the University of California in Berkeley. Principal players in the impending negotiations included President Gordon Sproul, Vice-President and Provost Monroe E. Deutsch, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Rudolph Schevill, and the three-member Music Department Search Committee: Albert Elkus (Chair of the Music Department) and Professors Edward Griffith Stricklen and Charles Cushing. By March 9th Elkus had written to Eric T. Clarke (AAC in New York City and a member of the Harvard Visiting Committee) hoping to set up a “sounding out” meeting at Harvard between Clarke and Thompson.

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