Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

The G. Robert Vincent Voice Library

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

The G. Robert Vincent Voice Library

Article excerpt

The G. Robert Vincent Library at Michigan State University is a fascinating collection of recorded voices, the culmination of one man's obsession, drive, vision, devotion, tenacity, and talent. G. Robert "Bob" Vincent was the collection's developer and, for many years, its main supporter and proponent. To understand its creation and contents, an overview of Vincent's life and career is necessary. Much of the background comes from a Ph.D. dissertation by Douglas E. Collar. (2) Dr. Collar's work was based on scrapbooks, unpublished manuscripts and interviews with Vincent, his family, and his associates.

George Robert Vincent was born on 17 July 1898, in Boston, Massachusetts. His mother, Lisa Bloch, was a literary figure who wrote under the penname Lisa Ysaye. She was the daughter of a prominent Viennese rabbi and statesman. His father was the Boston physician Dr. John Vincent. Their marriage dissolved in 1902 and Lisa, with her two children, returned to her family home in Vienna, where Bob and his sister came under the influence of their strict grandfather, Joseph Bloch. Bob learned German, which was to be important throughout his life. His mother married Dr. Joseph Tarlau, another rabbi, in 1903; in 1905, the family moved to New York City, where three more sons were born to Lisa. Her eldest son, Bob, although an indifferent student, used his strong independent streak and zest for adventure to seek out more challenges than those offered by school and family life.

In part because of his mother's association with publishers and literary agents, Bob developed an idea for a magazine for boys. He worked his way into the offices of some of the most influential publishers and newspapermen of the day, and eventually, at age 12, succeeded in obtaining support for the publication of his own periodical, The Boys' Paper, which was published from 1910 to 1914. He wrote much of the content, sought articles and editorials from newsworthy figures, and included his mother's work from time to time. Bob never lacked the courage to introduce himself to important individuals and he never hesitated to persuade these leaders to write letters of support or introduction. Throughout his life, this self-confidence remained an asset that seldom failed him.

One of Vincent's lifelong heroes was Theodore Roosevelt. After leaving the United States presidency in 1908, Mr. Roosevelt accepted a position as a contributing editor for The Outlook, a New York weekly. In the course of seeking articles, Vincent met Roosevelt and persuaded him to write a statement for The Boys' Paper. This was the first of several encounters. Perhaps the most formative meeting came in the summer of 1912. Vincent and his friends had formed The Boys' Progressive League, an offshoot of The Boys' Paper. Although too young to vote, they were vitally interested in the presidential election that year. Roosevelt formed the Bull Moose Party, a third political party, so that he could run for president again. The members of the League supported him and they wanted him to address a meeting of their organization. Vincent and four friends went to Roosevelt's home to present the invitation. With considerable foresight, Vincent borrowed an Edison cylinder recording machine from Thomas Edison, whose son Charles was Vincent's close friend. When Roosevelt declined the invitation due to time constraints, Vincent prevailed upon him to record a short speech to be played to the League members. This was a coup. The other youngsters doubted Vincent could succeed in getting Roosevelt to speak, and they certainly didn't envision having a recording. The speech lasts just under three minutes and is titled "A message to the American boys." That the first voice Bob ever recorded was Theodore Roosevelt, even though on a fairly primitive machine, was to become a claim to fame that he enjoyed throughout his life. This experience helped set him on his ultimate career path. Later, the Edison Recording Division plated this wax cylinder and gave it to Bob, along with the original machine he used. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.