The last of the three founding units of the University of Hartford combined a highly developed and uncompromising sense of quality with the scrappiness of the financially under-endowed. The Hartt School began with two people, of very different temperaments but a single vision. Julius Hartt, as Albert Coote describes him in Four Vintage Decades: The Performing Arts in Hartford 1930-1970, was "a gentle, engaging man, whose cultural attainments transcended even his exceptional musicianship." He had come to Hartford to teach in 1906. "His school," Coote tells us, "was organized in 1920 into an informal federation known as Julius Hartt, Moshe Paranov and Associated Teachers." With very limited resources and operating out of premises on Collins Street, the school was, as Coote puts it "a churchmouse operation." Every possible source of funding was sought after, from Moshe Paranov's periodic check-collecting visits with local business leaders, to the cultivation and sale of vegetables to keep the school going. Paranov and his colleagues were a remarkable group. An individual of magnetic personality, Paranov succeeded in attracting to Hartford and his young and fragile school some of the best musical talent in the country. He also married Julius Hartt's daughter.
Born Morris Perlmutter in Hartford in 1895, "Uncle Moshe," as he was known to generations of Hartt students during his 99-year lifetime, developed friendships with first-class performers and composers from all over the world, such as Harold Bauer, Ernest Bloch, Paul Hindemith, and Dame Myra Hess. Taking Moshe Paranov as his professional name, he early embraced the new medium of radio, and was for over twenty years music director of Hartford radio station WTIC (named for its owner, the Travelers Insurance Company) when that charter station of the National Broadcasting Company had its own concert orchestra, jazz band, and choral group.
To the end of his life, Moshe Paranov was especially proud of having conducted the first notes of music ever heard in the Bushnell Memorial Hall when that auditorium was opened in 1930. In 1990, he was called back to conduct Bach's "Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light" at the sixtieth anniversary celebration.
From 1948 to 1953, when the Hartford Symphony Orchestra had no permanent conductor, Moshe Paranov shared that honor with George Heck, of the Hartford School of Music. He cared passionately about the musical education of young people, and over the decades he served at one time or another as music director of many of the area's leading independent preparatory schools. He also helped found choral and orchestral societies in the greater Hartford community to provide opportunities for talented amateurs.
But Moshe Paranov's first love always remained what became the Hartt College of Music, which began to offer master's programs in music in 1948 and in music education in 1951. The college's opera department was renowned for its remarkable productions, often very early American performances of European works such as Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring, produced with the remarkable scenery and staging of the late Elemer Nagy. Hartt was the first, as early as 1943, to present a complete opera, Hansel and Gretel, on television.
By the early 1950s Hartt was located in cramped and less than desirable quarters on Broad Street in Hartford, where problems with the building were frequent and improvisation was not only a musical practice but a custodial one as well. Fortunately for the future of the University of Hartford, the building was also right in the path of the proposed Interstate 84 highway, and the Hartt building, along with the famous Hartford Public High School, designed by George Keller, was slated for demolition.
Moshe Paranov's love of music was so contagious that he not only brought top artists to Hartford for a fraction of their usual fee, but also acquired supporters and benefactors for the school, among them Alfred C. and Mary Primrose Fuller. Fuller, a native of Nova Scotia, was the original Fuller Brush Man and had made a fortune in door-to-door sales of brushes and other housekeeping necessities. His second wife, Mary Primrose, herself an excellent pianist, recalled that "Mr. Viggo Bird, who was president of the Hartt board of trustees at the time, invited A.C. to go on the board. The rest is history. Both A.C. and I were impressed with the really dedicated group of people who were running Hartt: Moshe Paranov, Irene Kahn, Sam Berkman, Helen Hubbard, Louis Pellettieri, Stephen Langton and others."
A.C. Fuller tells the story a little differently. "In 1935, at the urging of Primrose," he writes in his autobiography, "I went on the board of the Hartt School.... The school had struggled precariously for years, kept alive only by a remarkably dedicated faculty. Almost immediately after I became a director, the school began to grow. Accreditation was secured, students poured in. It would be extremely difficult to pinpoint any significant contribution I made to this happy event at the time except substantial financial aid." While Fuller's assessment of his work for Hartt may have been too modest (and his sense of dates a little off: he joined the board in 1937, not 1935), there is no doubt that his finances made a crucial difference. "Without support on the order of the massive Fuller backing," writes Albert Coote, "Hartt would have been but a picayune component for the university which civic leaders in the 50s were planning for Hartford." When Fuller himself was approached to back the idea of a merger of institutions to form the University of Hartford, Coote tells us that he promised "that if genuine community support could be marshaled for the project, Hartt would become a participant and he would give the university the $1 million which was currently providing income for Hartt's operation."
Thus the scene was set for the emergence of a University of Hartford. Hillyer College needed a centralized physical location; Hartt needed space; Hartford Art School needed Hillyer for educational programming and was also looking for a home.
more> Chapter 2 — Section I