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Article Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge

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Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. (Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Collection) [n.d.]

It happened one day that Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, as a tourist in Washington, was invited by Dr. Putnam to join a group of the Library's division chiefs for their "roundtable" lunch. As Mrs. Coolidge's contribution to this conversation centered on a recent festival and other musical affairs, she was approached about the possibility of bringing some music to the Library, which was at the time without instruments or a proper facility for presenting concerts. Accustomed to mentoring newly-formed string quartets, organizing chamber music festivals, and funding prize competitions and commissions, Mrs. Coolidge began to work with the Librarian and his staff to develop a plan to promote chamber music through commissions, public concerts and festivals. The plan was expanded when she agreed to finance the construction of the Coolidge Auditorium, inaugurated with the first Coolidge Festival on October 28, 1925.

Mrs. Coolidge, frequently called a "patron saint of American music," hailed the Library for responding to and developing her intentions as well as creating and supporting new ones. The Music Division continues to celebrate her birthday on October 30 with the annual Founder's Day Concert, traditionally featuring new music.

With the addition of live music, the collections kept expanding, especially when the Music Division began to receive holograph scores from composers commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation. These were augmented by additional gifts, including original manuscripts, from Mrs. Coolidge.

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