Skip to Content

History of Music at Dumbarton Oaks

Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss designed Dumbarton Oaks to be beautiful without and within, filling the gardens with flowers, the library with rare volumes, and the house itself with fine art and music. Music at Dumbarton Oaks, founded in 1946 as the Friends of Music, continues this tradition with classical concerts from established and rising musicians.

The Rock Star of Encores

Robyn Bollinger revives the macabre Paganini, “The Hot Canary,” and other touchstones of an indulgent musical tradition

The Friends of Music

Established in 1946 as the Friends of Music, the concert program presents some of the most celebrated and promising musicians to Georgetown in the splendor of the Blisses’ former estate.

Music at Dumbarton Oaks: The Performers

Many famous or soon-to-be famous musicians performed at Dumbarton Oaks over the years, and several have reminisced fondly about their concertizing there, in both the residential and institutional periods.

Stravinsky, Copland, Tower, and Shaw

The Blisses ensured that music was given proper space in their homes, a commitment that was enhanced through their sponsorship of musicians and the commissioning of new works. Dumbarton Oaks continues this commitment through a concert series and commissioning new works from early-career musicians.

The Musical Art Quartet and the Bliss Stradivarius Viola

Mildred Barnes Bliss was an enthusiastic patron of the Musical Art Quartet. She supported the string quartet from soon after its inception in 1926 until it disbanded in 1944. The quartet performed in the Music Room each year between 1941 and 1944, and it was largely due to the success of these performances that Dumbarton Oaks decided to inaugurate a Friends of Music concert series in 1946.