Seventy three years ago, jewish violin virtuoso Hugo Gottesmann fled Nazi persecution, finding a home in Bay View in northern Michigan. Today, his memory lives on in the form of scholarships offered through the Bay View Music Festival.
Bay View author Mary Jane Doerr has been researching Gottesmann’s legacy, and wrote about his incredible, and inspirational life’s journeys from Europe to the United States.
“He was born in 1896 in Vienna and he played at the Vienna symphony under Richard Strauss,” said Doerr. During this time, he was also playing with the famed Busch String Quartet that formed in 1918 where several tours where held around Europe and a brief tour in America during the early 1930’s. “In 1936, he was in America performing with I think the NBC orchestra and he was told that he should not return to Vienna.” And the reason he was told not to return? His religion.
“He was Jewish, and he had been the concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony. But he lost his job in ‘33 because of the political turmoil. Then he had to go up to Sweden and he was there 2 years before he came to New York. His family remained, and in 1938 his sister was arrested twice by the Gestapo. And his mother died the night of Kristallnacht when they destroyed all the synagogues in the city, and her businesses were destroyed. She had a hat store, and they were all destroyed.” Doerr spoke about this horrible event solemnly during an interview, but with hope, knowing what Gottesmann’s future would bring him.
“He hid out for two years, and nobody quite knows how he did it, but he ended up in Italy and got passage out of ship for America out of Genoa,” added Doerr. And after he found passage by ship to the United States out of Genoa, he ported in New York City where he followed around Robert Mann who later would be known as the founder of the Julliard String Quartet. In 1942, he then traveled to Michigan, where he settled in Bay View and stayed for 28 years until his death in 1970.
Gottesmann’s legacy still lives on in Harbor Springs to this day, including scholarships offered through the Bay View Music Festival. Dr. Chris Ludwa is the festival’s artistic director. He said the Gottesmann fund pulls in many donations annually…
“We have a very generous group of people that donate every year. We raise about thirty thousand dollars a year just from individual donations towards scholarships. I think for me, this is still a gem, a diamond in the rough, this community here in terms of its music festival and for having operated as many years as we have…over a hundred at least. It’s always surprising to people when they come to Petoskey and I think they see something that literally blows them away. So for us, it’s a hope that people visit us in Bay View and know that we’re open to their visit for any of our activities, and that we need the support of people like this group that put together the Gottesmann scholarship.”
Scholarships are available to both national and international students to help pay for their involvement in the Bay View Summer Music festival.
You can read an in depth article about Gottesmann written by Doerr in the 2015 June edition of the Mackinac Journal, and listen to performances of Gottesmann in the Busch string quartet HERE
**In the interest of full disclosure, the Bay View Music Festival is an underwriter for CMU Public Radio.