You might expect that the Gilmore Music Library would provide a quiet refuge from the din of the election campaign, but presidents are surprisingly prominent in their collections, and they are the focus of a new exhibition, Hail to the Chief: Presidents in the Gilmore Archives. The library holds the papers of Vladimir Horowitz, Robert Shaw, Benny Goodman, and other musicians who interacted with presidents in a variety of ways. The exhibition includes letters from Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, and photographs of John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Carter, and Reagan. Horowitz performed for Herbert Hoover in 1931, and he received a pair of cufflinks and a tie pin from Reagan in 1986 and a posthumous award from George H.W. Bush in 1989.
Music has often played a role in presidential campaigns. Examples range from a pocket-sized songbook promoting Abraham Lincoln’s campaign in 1860 to Irving Berlin’s song about Dwight Eisenhower,“They Like Ike.” When William McKinley became president in 1897, his inauguration featured a march composed by Yale undergraduate Charles Ives.
The title, Hail to the Chief, is borrowed from the famous presidential march, whose melody comes from James Sanderson’s setting of a passage from Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake. The exhibit is free and open to the public. It will be on display at the Gilmore Music Library through Election Day (Tuesday, November 6).