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Columns

December 29, 2012

Oneonta's music, art, dance offerings increased in 1887

Growing up in Oneonta and having moved back here in adult years, I readily noticed in other places I lived, where there’s a college there are enhanced music, arts and cultural offerings. Oneonta has plenty to offer these days.

Prior to 1887, Oneonta wasn’t exactly a cultural wasteland, as the village had the Stanton Opera House, where 125 Main St. is today, and the railroad provided many a traveling show to perform here for those seeking entertainment.

However, when it was announced in 1887 that a new state Normal School was going to locate in Oneonta, the offerings of music, arts and culture seemed to spike. The new school didn’t open until 1889, but some enterprising people in music and cultural fields must have thought, “why wait?”

Not three months after the bill was signed by the governor to establish the Normal School in Oneonta, The Oneonta Herald reported on June 16, “We are in receipt of a very handsome invitation to the annual commencement exercise of Russell’s Conservatory of Music at Cambridgeboro, Pa. This closes Mr. Russell’s last term at Cambridgeboro. He comes to Oneonta in July, and will at once commence arrangements for the opening of the fall term of his conservatory here in September.”

The Oneonta Local of Monday, Aug. 29, reported how Russell’s Conservatory of Music had been established in 1883. Emory P. Russell had grown up in the Boston area, where he received his musical training by special instruction. He taught music in the public schools of Newton and Watertown, Mass.

In 1881 he took charge of the music department at the State Normal School in Edinboro, Pa., and eventually started his own enterprise. So Russell was no stranger to college towns. The Russell Conservatory had 43 graduates in the four years before he came to Oneonta, and the Local said the graduates had filled positions in music schools and departments in many states.

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