Ernest Schelling was born in Belvedere, N.J. on July 26, 1876. He studied music with his father and made his debut as a pianist at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia at the age of four. By age seven, he was taken to study music in Europe. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire and worked with many great masters of Europe including Goetschius, Huber, Barth, Moszkowski and Leschetizky. He played for the crowned heads of Europe and also for such musical luminaries as Rubinstein and Brahms. At the age of twenty he began studying with Ignace Paderewski and was his only pupil for three years. This would turn out to be a great life-long friendship and an important musical partnership for both.
At the beginning of the century, Schelling toured Europe, South and North America with brilliant success, gaining a reputation as a remarkable pianist. He then took a post as the court musician to the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and began to compose as well. Schelling wrote many works that were often played during his lifetime, including works for piano, orchestra, and chamber groups. Since his death these have regrettably fallen from the repertoire. His most popular work was "A Victory Ball," a symphonic poem for orchestra based on a poem by Alfred Noyes, which received very appreciative reviews in America and Europe.
In 1917, he joined the U.S. Army intelligence corps, and served bravely in the First World War. He was highly decorated not just by the U.S., but also by Poland, Spain and France, and was discharged as a Major at the end of the war.
In 1924, Schelling was appointed conductor of the Young People's Concerts of the New York Philharmonic Symphonic Society. These children's concerts were to take up the bulk of his time and energy for the rest of his life. The concerts were a combination of lecture, picture show and orchestral performance that he designed to encourage in children a love and understanding of music. He not only conducted these concerts in New York but all over the country and even the world, earning great success everywhere from Philadelphia and Los Angeles to London and Rotterdam. From 1936 to 1938, he also took on an appointment as music director of the Baltimore Symphony.
Schelling was also very active in many other aspects of musical life. He organized benefits for composers, worked with the Musicians Relief Fund, and was the president of the Edward MacDowell Association beginning in 1929. He was friendly with most of the great musicians from America and Europe and often entertained them at his summer home on Lake Geneva. He greatly facilitated the acceptance of American music and musicians in Europe and helped bring many great European musicians to America, including Enrique Granados whom Schelling championed until Granados's untimely death in 1916. Schelling died in his home in New York City on December 8, 1939.
The Ernest Schelling collection contains a large variety of materials reflecting his diverse interests. There is a great deal of information on Ernest Schelling himself, including detailed sections on his various careers as pianist, composer, conductor and author. The collection also contains a great deal of correspondence, mostly from musicians. This includes a great number of letters from Granados as well as from Fritz Kreisler and Josef Hofmann. The bulk of the papers relate to the Children's Concerts including lecture, program and slide materials. There is also a substantial score collection that features not only Schelling's own compositions and other rare piano scores, but also valuable early editions of Chopin and Beethoven and several very rare 18th century prints. Lastly, there is a quite sizable collection of iconography of various types, including many photographs of Schelling and his family.