Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Fine Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Vicki P. Stroeher

Second Advisor

Ann M. Bingham

Third Advisor

Terry L. Dean, Jr.


In 1891 Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) was offered a position as the Director of the American Conservatory in New York City by Jeanette Thurber (1850-1946) due to his reputation as a nationalistic composer. Thurber was intending to create a national music for America and hired Dvorak to not only promote the American Conservatory, but help her achieve her goal of an American style. By early 1892 an agreement was reached between the two parties, and Dvorak assumed his role as Director of the Conservatory in October of 1892, a tenure which lasted until May 1895. This three year period, identified as Dvorak's "American" period, has ignited debate over his identification of source materials for composers to utilize as a possible source of influences to create an American nationalistic style of compositions.

Based on Dvorak's public writings during this periods, one might conclude that Negro Spirituals and music of Native Americans should form the basis of an American nationalistic style, but practice Dvorak's compositions suggests a different direction entirely. Indeed previous scholars who have examined Dvorak's American works have reached no consensus regarding the extent of influence that Negro Spirituals and Native American music in these works.

In this paper I will suggest an alternative to the influence of the Negro Spiritual and Native American music on the creation of Dvorak's "American" period, and assert that it was, in fact, the influence of the Indianist and Progressive Movements that helped shape the music to invoke Americaness. I will support my hypothesis through a comparison of indigenous idioms, an examination of contract issues between Thurber and Dvorak, and contradictions between letters written by the composer to family and friends and the newspaper editorials attributed to Dvorak.


Dvorak, Antonin, 1841-1904 -- Criticism and interpretation

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