Otto Ortmann papers
- 1900 - 1979
- Ortmann, Otto, 1889-1979 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
20 Cubic Feet (approximately 20 cubic feet of material in 58 containers and loose items)
Biographical / Historical
Baltimore-born Ortmann inherited his musical gifts from his parents. His father, Richard Ortmann, was a singer, organist, and music critic. His mother was a singer who performed as soloist for many of the city's leading churches and temples.
Ortmann earned a teacher's certificate and the artist's diploma in composition from the Peabody Conservatory and later served on the school's faculty from 1917 to 1928, founding the research department in 1925. In the spring of 1928, Ortmann succeeded the late Harold Randolph as director of the conservatory, but with some trepidation. Years later, he explained to a colleague that when he agreed to take on the post, he made it clear to the Peabody's trustees that he "was not to lead any social life, with cocktail parties, debutante balls" or "appear as concert artist or as conductor," which, he acknowledged, were things his predecessor did very well. Nor did he maintain the Peabody's close relationship with the Baltimore Symphony, which Randolph helped to found.
Ortmann believed that some music training was needed by everyone and that it should begin early. He cited the problems of the musically illiterate adolescent with vocal potential and ordinary citizens living in an increasing complex world whose "appreciation of the beautiful does for the heart and mind what healthful exercise does for the body." Ortmann concluded that music education must include instruction on the aesthetic value of tone, how tone is produced on the instrument being taught, and how the body of the player contributes to the production of that tone. To that end, he conducted research on acoustics, music pedagogy, and performance physiology. Ortmann was a pioneer in the study of the psychological effect of music on the learning process. He and his colleagues in the department of research published many articles on the physiological aspects of music performances in scientific and educational journals. Using advanced photographic techniques, oscillographs, resonoscopes, and the new Fairchild's Recording and Reproducing apparatus, they undertook studies of violin bow movements, trumpet embouchure, vocal timbre, and the mechanics of piano technique.
While Ortmann won distinction for establishing the research program at Peabody and producing an impressive number of studies, he was less successful as director of the conservatory and was asked to resign in 1941. After leaving Peabody, Ortmann became chairman of the music department of Goucher College, where he turned his talents toward developing studies in music for liberal arts students. He continued teaching at Goucher and at his home on St. Paul Street.