By Casey Rogers
The BYU School of Music received $1 million worth of antique audio recordings that will be archived and sold to create scholarships for music students.
Don Cecala donated approximately 20,000 78-rpm records in pristine condition. The never-been-played records date from the early part of the 20th century. Selections include George Gershwin performing original compositions, Teddy Roosevelt”s campaign speeches and recordings of Thomas Edison.
“It is a very unusual gift to us, but a significant financial reward,” said school spokesman Mike Ohman.
Ohman said the school would archive one copy of each record and sell the remainder to create a scholarship fund. He estimated the school would earn $1 million from the sale of the records. The scholarship will be the Boyd and Manuela Brown Scholarship and should be ready this Fall Semester after the records have been cataloged and appraised.
“It will [give] students more scholarship help,” he said. “Our goal is to allow every music student to come to BYU without the cost of private lessons. We”d be thrilled if we could eliminate those costs.”
The gift also has academic importance to the university. Dale Monson, director of the School of Music, said the records are a great addition to the BYU collection.
“The archive is really quite significant,” he said. “We have one of the largest collections in the country. This is an incredibly historical addition to that.”
The records” mint condition and format are what make them rare.
“It”s [a medium] that has long been bypassed,” Ohman said. “This is the very earliest of the first improvements to Edison”s first invention. Many of the artists of this time are not around to reproduce their music and sound.”
The records, pressed by the Edison Company, were found in Ogden around 1965. The Edison Co. had a warehouse in Ogden because it was a major railroad hub. When the Edison Co. went out of business the shareholders and investors forgot about the record storehouse. The building was sold in the early 1960s and the new owners discovered the records while cleaning and later sold them.
BYU is not the only school to receive recordings from the Ogden warehouse. In June 2002 the University of California, Santa Barbara received 1,400 Edison recording cylinders. When Utah State University learned of the donation, USU decided to donate their collection of 6,500 records, which were also found in Ogden.
David Seubert, Curator of Performing Arts in the Davidson Library at UCSB, said the recordings have been a helpful addition to the university collection that houses 200,000 audio recordings.
“Here we specialize in historic sound recordings,” he said. “They really filled in a gap where we didn”t have a strong collection of Edison Records. It”s important to preserve the original documents and it”s important to make them available to researchers and the public.”
Seubert said UCSB has digitized the cylinders and will put them online for listening. Then Cecala bought the records and contacted BYU six months ago and began negations to give them to the university.
Monson said the school is thankful for the donation and hopes it will help more students.
“We expect this to have an enormous impact on our ability to offer scholarships … We”re very grateful to the donors to the School of Music,” he said.