Celebrating Dvorak: DAHA at 25 Years
This year's Beseda Ball, BBLA’s annual fundraising event, honored DAHA and its creative, accomplished, and forward-looking leadership, as exemplified by the special honorees Professor Michael Beckerman and Maestro Maurice Peress. DAHA also paid tribute to its visionary past leader Jan Hird Pokorny.
Founded in 1990, the Dvořák American Heritage Association (DAHA) marks its 25th Anniversary this year, commemorating, celebrating, and continuing to explore composer Antonín Dvořák’s extraordinary musical contributions, with a special emphasis on his influential residency in the United States from 1892 to 1895. From its home in the beautifully restored Bohemian National Hall in New York City, DAHA offers concerts, lectures, and educational programs, increasing awareness and appreciation of Dvořák and Czech musical culture. The Dvořák Room, DAHA’s exhibition and study space, offers inspiration to present and future generations by preserving the composer's American legacy.
View of the Dvořák Room, the exhibition and study space of DAHA. Photo: Roman Franc.
At its inception, DAHA spearheaded the campaign to preserve Dvořák House at 327 East 17th Street, which despite the best efforts of Dvořák admirers, was sadly demolished in 1991. DAHA then moved on to acquire, conserve, and successfully place the Dvořák Statue by sculptor Ivan Meštrović in Stuyvesant Square Park in 1997, working together with the New York Philharmonic and neighborhood preservation groups. A section of East 17th Street was co-named Dvořák Place.
In 2006 DAHA’s activities turned to implementing plans for the Dvořák Room in the Bohemian National Hall, organizing the space around the nineteenth-century mantelpiece salvaged from Dvořák House, installing the memorial plaque, and initiating an active concert, lecture, and performance series. To carry out its educational mission, DAHA has fostered ties with music schools and academic institutions, inviting students, seasoned musicians, and scholars to participate in its diverse programs. The events have included orchestral concerts, musicales, and jazz performances, as well as curated exhibitions, lectures, and walking tours, among others. DAHA has in addition made important acquisitions for a growing archive related to Dvořák’s American period, and recently added a YouTube Channel link to its website to share video recordings of its public programs.
Spring Musicale performers and DAHA Board Members, March 2012
The Dvořák Room Grand Opening of October 2011 featured an exhibition of “Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony and the New York Philharmonic.” That theme was carried further that anyone imagined possible in the recent exhibition of the original manuscript of the “New World” Symphony together with the original New York Philharmonic orchestral parts in the Bohemian National Hall. DAHA’s efforts in this collaborative project and continuing contributions were recognized by the Jan Masaryk Honorary Medal of the Czech Foreign Ministry awarded to DAHA in December 2014.
Honoring Michael Beckerman and Maurice Peress
DAHA’s leadership is creative, accomplished, and forward-looking, as exemplified by the two DAHA Board Members honored at the Beseda Ball - Michael Beckerman and Maurice Peress.
Michael Beckerman is an internationally acclaimed scholar, musicologist, and Dvořák authority. Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Music at New York University and Distinguished Professor of History at Lancaster University. Author of numerous articles, studies and books, including New Worlds of Dvořák (W.W. Norton, 2003) and Dvořák and His World (Princeton University Press, 1993); lectures nationally and internationally. He is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Palacký University, Olomouc, and the Janáček Medal, a laureate of the Czech Music Council, and has received the Deems Taylor Award twice for his work on Dvořák. He is currently writing on the music composed in Terezin and researching a project on musical middles. He is Vice-President of DAHA and serves on the Advisory Board of the Czech Center in New York.
Professor Michael Beckerman lecturing on "Dvořák - Hiawatha - Melodrama", October 2014
Maurice Peress is a distinguished American conductor, educator and author of Dvořák to Duke Ellington: A Conductor Explores America’s Music and Its African American Roots (Oxford University Press, 2004). Professor of Music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, CUNY, where he established an MA program for conductors. Appointed by Leonard Bernstein as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic in 1961, he has led three American orchestras and conducted internationally. His memoir, Maverick Maestro (Paradigm Publishers) underscores his life-long commitment to “give concerts that reconstruct delicious mixed marriages of music, black and white, Jazz and classical, folk and concert, Native American and European; works that bring people together, that urge us to love one another.” Maestro Peress is a Charter Member and Music Adviser of DAHA, and maintains an active guest-conducting schedule.
Maestro Maurice Peress, conductor of the Aaron Copland School of Music Orchestra, February 2014.