Irving Lowens and the Washington Star: The Vision, The Demise
Holly, Janice E.
Davis, Shelley G
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Irving Lowens (1916-1983) was a polymath who possessed an extraordinary intellect and boundless energy. A musicologist of first rank, he made seminal contributions to the study of music in America. Founder of the Society for American Music (formerly the Sonneck Society) and, through his affiliation with the Library of Congress, a leader in the mid 20th-century endeavors of the Music Library Association, he also contributed immeasurably to progress in American musicological enterprise. Having labored throughout his life as educator, composer, librarian, scholar, world traveler, de facto ambassador, and even chess player, Lowens is especially suited for designation as a public intellectual. Self-described as "bookish," Lowens was by virtue of long established habit an inveterate reader and writer. Having transplanted himself, by circuitous route, from his native New York City to Washington, D.C., he became a regular reader of the Washington Star, then newspaper of record in the nation's capital. In December 1953, Lowens penned a letter to the editor praising the work of the Star's new music critic Day Thorpe. Shortly thereafter, the Irving Lowens byline made its first appearance in the newspaper. Thus began a relationship that dramatically changed Lowens's professional life, and ultimately helped to change, for the better, the musical landscape of Washington. This dissertation chronicles the symbiotic relationship forged between Irving Lowens and the Washington Star, from its quiet beginnings through its years of achievement in supporting, upholding, and respecting concert life in the nation's capital, and, finally, to its sad dénouement. Chapter One, a biography, details Lowens's professional life as a music critic and his contributions to the performing arts in Washington, D.C. Chapter Two records the Star's collaborative role as a force for musical good in the nation's capital. Chapter Three brings to light the Star's struggle to survive amid the turmoil of changing times and changing ownership. Chapter Four outlines the circumstances surrounding Lowens's failed fight to maintain the Star's classical-music coverage in Washington. Chapter Five demonstrates the power of Lowens's pen, even as he loses his battle for music at the Star. Although both Lowens and the Washington Star are long since gone, their legacy lives on in the current, vibrant culture that is musical Washington.