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Panel Information: The University Musical Society and the May Festival

Anew musical era dawned in Ann Arbor in 1894 when the University Musical Society presented its first May Festival. Touted as “the greatest musical treat in the history of Ann Arbor or of the state,” a trio of concerts of orchestral and choral works packed the 3,000-seat University Hall on State Street. After moving to the new and larger Hill Auditorium in 1913, the festival grew to six concerts over four days, including a chorus of 400 children from local schools. Composers Copland, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky conducted their own works. People often wore formal attire at UMS concerts, but at May Festival time the display of décolletage, trains, tiaras, tails, and white ties was dazzling.

The May Festival ended in 1995. The UMS, long renowned for its classical music presenta- tions and outstanding international performers, was already courting new audiences by expanding its range and variety of artists and programs. Offerings included more drama, dance, jazz, and world music.