Right now, the Pittsburgh Symphony is hosting an institute for teachers called Dvořák in America, developed by scholar Joseph Horowitz. It’s a clever idea to use the visit of the Czech composer in the 1890s as a way to study American history at the turn of the twentieth century.
I have done some of my own research about Dvořák, though it was far less enlightening.
In 4th or 5th grade, we were assigned to write a paper called an “I Search.” I was a classical music fan and claimed Dvořák was my favorite composer. I also knew that I had a great-grandfather with the last name Dvorsky. My young, naïve brain put the two together and I thought maybe we’re related! So that became my research topic. For the sake of my present-day pride, I hope that back then I quickly learned:
1) The Czech village of Nelahozeves (near Prague) where Dvořák was born is approximately 800 miles from Vilnius, Lithuania, where my great-grandfather originated.
2) My great-grandfather’s real last name was Dvarackas and was simply changed upon immigrating to the U.S.
3) Most importantly, lots and lots of people from Eastern Europe have similar names to Dvořák. I grew up in WASPy suburban Denver where the phone book didn’t have the dozens and dozens of Dvoraks, Dvorchaks, Dvorchiks, Dvorskys, etc. that we have here in Pittsburgh.
Oh well. I’m glad to see that Dvořák is still inspiring research. Come to the Music Department to do your own Dvořák research, reading and listening, and visit the Pennsylvania Department to research your family history.