CHARLES WAKEFIELD CADMAN, who has given the most successful expression in music to the American Indian, was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on December 24, 1881. His father was a metallurgist, employed by the Carnegie Steel Company. Altho Charles had no piano in his home until his thirteenth birthday, he was always sensitive to music, and as a child would sit fascinated listening to musical performances of small orchestras or mediocre singers in local theatres. When finally a piano entered the Cadman home, Charles began to take lessons seriously, first from Leo Oehmler and then from Luigi von Kunitz, in Pittsburgh, and his progress was astonishing. From the very first, however, the urge to compose was far stronger in him than the desire to become a concert pianist. His most beloved pastime, in those years, was to scribble inchoate ideas on music-paper. Thus his first songs were produced.
The difficulty he encountered in finding a publisher appreciative of his early efforts did not dampen his soaring enthusiasm and glowing ideals. For two years, he walked the New York streets, passing from one publishing house to the next, and from one theatrical agent to another, trying to market a volume of songs, and a comic opera. Perseverance finally yielded fruit. Between 1904 and 1908, several of Cadman's songs made their appearance from the presses of Oliver Ditson Company--but they left their composer as obscure as he had been before their appearance. But they were songs of distinction. "There are broad sweeps of melody and declamation," is the criticism of Rupert Hughes, "bold changes, and a strange abruptness of melody that seems odd at first, but grows into wonderful beauty upon closer acquaintance."
Among these songs was included At Dawning which for six years rested unmolested upon the shelves of the Ditson Company. Then, suddenly, John McCormack, the famous tenor, decided to feature it on one of his concert tours, and before the season was over both the song and its composer flamed to the sky.
Since then, of course, At Dawning has enjoyed a popularity rivalled by no other song of an American composer. The leading singers of the world have featured it; and millions of copies have been sold in sheet music and phonograph records. It brought the composer both fame and wealth.
The lyricist of this song, Nellie Richmond Eberhart, has probably been the greatest single influence in Cadman's career. She was his inspirer in those bleak days when publishers were unreceptive, and thru her encouragement and faith in Cadman's talent actually made it possible for him not to lose heart. She constantly urged him to do bigger and better work--writing most of the lyrics for his songs and all of the librettos of his operas, save one. And it was she who interested Cadman in the American Indian, and urged him to adopt the Indian's exotic music as his idiom.
In 1909, Cadman spent a summer among the Omaha Indians where he obtained a great many ceremonial songs and flageolet love calls. He has since been one of the most zealous students of Indian music in America, and in his creation he has constantly attempted to give artistic shape and form to its pale and haunting melodies. In this field he has distinguished himself, acquiring an important position for himself in the