Note: As with many events around the state, the original schedule for the Hartt School's program has been impacted by the precautions being taken regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. All performances at the University of Hartford have been cancelled through April 5; below is Connecticut Magazine's article, including the remainder of the schedule, as they appeared in the April 2020 issue, which went to press just before widespread precautions were announced.

Update (3/24): The Hartt School has now announced the cancellation of all events through the end of May.


In its early years, the Hartt School often squeaked by semester to semester with its founders paying themselves a pittance and relying on generous donors to stay afloat. Rising pianist Moshe Paranov and his future father-in-law, Julius Hartt, established the school in 1920, first operating out of Hartt’s home, long before the West Hartford school became one of the University of Hartford’s three founding institutions in 1957.

Dance in HPAC photo by Eduardo Patino .jpg

Stepping up: Ballet and dance are two of the many performing arts offered at the school.

Despite initially not being able to pay their teachers much, the founders managed to attract talented faculty and students, and the school’s reputation grew. Determination was a key factor in its success. Paranov once resorted to bribing cellist Leonard Rose with the promise of a home-cooked meal to entice him to travel to Hartford to teach a few master classes.

In January, the performing arts conservatory launched its 18-month centennial celebration, Hartt100, featuring more than 650 performances. The year-plus event kicked off with a diverse schedule, including a spirited performance of the opera Die Fledermaus.

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Hartt100 embraces both the past and future, says Larry Alan Smith, Hartt’s dean. “As you look back on the history of the school, you want to celebrate what’s happened but you also want to look at what’s going to happen. That is a really key element of what we are doing. This is a chance for us to look both directions.” Smith notes that the school added dance in 1994 and theater in 1996, and plans to add more programs in the near future.

“In addition to encouraging people to attend live performances, we also need to make use of the newest technologies to bring the school closer to audiences locally, nationally and internationally,” he says, noting that many Hartt performances are now live-streamed.

Music professor Glenn Adsit, who curated Hartt100, says Hartt normally presents about 400-450 programs a year, and the 600-plus programs being presented for the centennial will showcase the school’s rich history. “The whole centennial is going to put the spotlight on the most prominent things we have done as an institution and then another spotlight is on creating new work for the future,” he says. Several new works will premiere during Hartt100, with many alumni returning to perform.

Throughout its history, the school has drawn top talent. Well-known visiting artists and Hartt alumni include Aaron Copeland, Isaac Stern, Dionne Warwick, Marian Anderson, Franc D’Ambrosio and Peter Boyer. Students now come to Hartt from all over the world, allowing Hartt to expand its cultural influence.

To commemorate the centennial, Hartt published a lavishly illustrated book documenting its history, One Hundred Years of Hartt, written by music education professor Dee Hansen. Combing through the school’s archives for research, she found it a challenge to keep to a 150-page limit. “I could’ve written probably for the next five years and not covered it all, so it was deciding how to tell the story in a way that did not leave things out that were really important,” she says.

“I discovered the incredible people that founded the school had such tenacity and such a love and belief of music and the arts, that’s what really drove them. They were able to bring in the highest quality of the artists from all over the world to perform at the school and to give master classes at the school with no budget,” she says. “It turned into this really inspiring story of what can be accomplished by beliefs and values and just a sheer determination.”


Have some Hartt

(NOTE: As of March 24, all performances at Hartt have officially been cancelled through the end of May.)

More than 650 performances celebrate the Hartt School’s centennial through June 2021. While most programs take place at the school, there will also be regional and even international performances. Most are free.

April 24-26 Hartt Dances marks two anniversaries: 25 years of Hartt Dance and 100 years of the school. The dance division will present a program of classical and contemporary choreographic masters, from George Balanchine to José Limón and Lar Lubovitch. Alfred C. Fuller Music Center’s Millard Auditorium. Tickets $10 in advance, $15 day of show.

May 1, 3 Hartt Orchestra and Choirs: Berlioz Te Deum. Both concerts will feature Berlioz’s Te Deum, In the Service of the Beautiful, a newly commissioned work by Hartt alum Colin Britt, and two works by Gabrieli and Gesualdo arranged for brass, as well as other pieces. The May 1 show is at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Joseph and the May 3 performance is at 4:30 p.m. at Yale’s Woolsey Hall in New Haven. Free.

May 10, 7:30 p.m.Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble.A tradition since the late 1950s, the Hartt School Community Division offers students the opportunity to perform challenging wind ensemble music with fellow student musicians. Lincoln Theater. Free but reservations required as seating is limited.

June 2-7 Chamber Music Festival.The Hartt School Community Division includes more than 40 youth chamber music ensembles ranging from elementary school string quartets through advanced high school wind quintets. The festival enables chamber music students to unite to showcase their work from the year.

For more information, go to hartford.edu

This article appeared in the April 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram@connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.