What We Do
The Adolf Busch Award was founded with one sole purpose: to recognize and reward nonprofit organizations that use music to promote a more civil and just society.
Though many of us on the Board of Advisors are active in diverse fields, we are united in our passion for music as both a form of art and communication. We believe music is a potent tool for effectively countering cultural bias, confronting educational disadvantages, and teaching diverse skills that enable individuals to successfully surmount economic and/or cultural challenges.
Who was Adolf Busch?
Adolf Busch was a German violinist and conductor born in 1891. In 1912, he founded and acted as concertmaster of the Vienna Konzertverein, which debuted in 1913 at the Salzburg Festival. After World War I, he formed the legendary Busch Quartet and enjoyed a prominent career throughout Europe. Many of his closest friends and musical partners were Jewish, including his son-in-law, pianist Rudolf Serkin, and Quartet violist Karl Doktor.
The height of Busch’s musical success in Germany coincided with Hitler’s rise to power. Busch could not in good conscience stay in Germany, and, leaving his Stradivarius behind, emigrated to Switzerland in 1927. On April 1, 1933, the same day that Busch and his quartet arrived in Berlin to begin a tour of Germany, the Nazi party ordered a national boycott of Jewish businesses. After witnessing state-sanctioned anti-semitism, Busch cancelled his remaining performances and issued a statement saying that “[b]ecause of the impression made on me by the actions of my Christian compatriots against German Jews…I find it necessary to break off my concert tour in Germany.”
Joseph Goebbles, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, asked Busch to return on the condition that he would not perform with Jewish musicians. Busch replied that he would only return when Hitler, Goebbles, and Goering were hanged. The Nazi government exiled Jewish musicians, and banned and destroyed music by Jewish composers.
Busch’s opposition to the Nazi government was rare among German classical musicians. While many of his Austro-German contemporaries like Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Carl Orff, and Richard Strauss, stayed behind, Busch was not naive to Hitler’s aspirations. He criticized those who viewed the Nazi movement as a fleeting one; in a prophetic letter, Busch wrote, “Some of them believe that if they only ‘play along,’ the atrocities and injustice that are part and parcel of the movement will be tempered, can be turned around . . . they do not notice that they can only have a [delaying] effect, that the atrocities will still take place, only perhaps a bit later.”
Despite repeated entreaties from the German government asking him to return as late as 1937, Busch’s cancellations followed the spread of anti-Semitic laws across Europe. Only a few non-Jewish European musicians followed his stand, including Arturo Toscanini and Pablo Casals, with whom he co-founded the Lucerne Festival in 1938.
In 1939, Busch and members of the Quartet moved to the United States. In 1951, he co-founded the Marlboro Music Festival with his brother Hermann, his son-in-law Rudolf Serkin, and Marcel, Louis, Blanche and Moyse. Together, they merged their talent and turned Marlboro into an American chamber-music mecca and a magnet for talent. Although Busch died a year later, his legacy lives on through his work, family, and Marlboro, now a vital gathering place and musical oasis for many renowned artists of the late 20th century. The word Marlboro came to stand for musicianship of a special, ardent type. His son-in-law remained Marlboro’s artistic director until his death in 1991.
Adolf Busch Award honors its namesake by choosing to recognize organizations that have demonstrated courage, compassion and creativity in establishing social good through music. Our definition of social good comes in many forms, notably enhancing socioeconomic opportunity, supporting education and mentorship efforts, and addressing bias and oppression in its many forms.
The award grants a $10,000 prize annually to one organization chosen by the Board of Advisors. The board often awards additional funds to organizations that it feels are worthy in that year.
The Adolf Busch Award values organizations whose work:
- Focuses on nurturing the musical and leadership skills of young musicians through education and mentorship opportunities
- Focuses on systemically disenfranchised segments of the population
- Engages in grassroots initiatives that promote a pluralistic and equitable society
- Demonstrates a unique and thoughtful approach to the issues they address
- Demonstrates meaningful organizational maturation since inception
- Shows, through their activities, a rejection of the status quo and a willingness to shape a response to systemic issues in a challenging environment