An Announcement

Pro Musicis USA is closing. On January 25, 2024, the Pro Musicis Foundation, Inc.—based in New York City since 1969—filed a “Voluntary Petition for Dissolution of Not-For-Profit Organization with No Assets and No Liabilities” with the New York State Attorney General.

This action resulted after the Board of Directors and the Executive Director had explored other options, and then decided to close—primarily for financial reasons—on June 8, 2023. We have a good attorney to guide the multi-month process to legally dissolve a non profit.

The Pro Musicis Association in France will continue to serve the mission—partage de la musique—which began there in 1965.

Pro Musicis USA wishes to acknowledge all those who have participated in “the sharing of music with the widest possible audience” on this side of the Atlantic.

Above all, we acknowledge Father Eugène Merlet—the French Capuchin Franciscan priest and charismatic founder of Pro Musicis—who pioneered the concept of a classical music award combined with a social mission. In 1971 he presented the very first Pro Musicis concert in the USA at “The Tombs,” a detention center in Manhattan. Clearly ahead of his time, he inspired Pro Musicis artists to experience an ineffable shift in relation to their talent. Beyond aiming for a career in music, he invited them to discover the joy of placing their social conscience at the center of their activities.

By coincidence or providence, John Gingrich—working for impresario Sol Hurok in 1971—assisted Father Merlet in presenting the concert at “The Tombs.” The New York Times review described it as “perhaps the most significant performance New York City will experience this month.” Thus began John’s decades long support of Father Merlet, in personal and professional capacities, including his mentorship of John Haag—the new Executive Director in 1990—and years of service on the Board of Directors.

Over the decades, more than 100 artists have been chosen by audition for the Pro Musicis International Award. They have advanced the mission “to awaken the human spirit wherever they perform,” with nearly three thousand Pro Musicis concerts—in the USA and internationally—in both concert halls and community service venues.

Common to all Pro Musicis artists is the conviction that community service has transformed their relationship to their art. By sharing their gift with those suffering from illness, disability, incarceration, loneliness or poverty, they discover the power of music.

Our audiences are to be acknowledged for enabling the artists to experience the depth of their own feelings about the power of music. Audiences in both concert halls and outreach venues have played an important role in this chemistry. Thank you!

We acknowledge our cherished donors—board members, individuals, corporations and foundations—for their generous financial support. You have sustained Pro Musicis USA for 54 years. A heartfelt thank you!

We acknowledge our jury chairs, Gunther Schuller and Gilbert Kalish, who from the beginning recognized the importance of Father Merlet’s vision. They have given generously of their time, recruiting gifted jury members and facilitating— with integrity and grace—annual auditions in New York City. The result is an amazing roster of 100 Pro Musicis artists, chosen from nearly 1,000 applicants, whose social conscience enhances their exceptional musical talents.

Deserving of special mention are our dedicated and generous board members, who have supported and advanced the Pro Musicis mission during good and bad times. Together with the five board chairs—Charles Ellis, Robert de Rothschild, John Schmitz, Cynthia Glacken and Bonnie Barrett—the board has faithfully governed and supported the Executive Directors in navigating challenges thru the decades.

The Pro Musicis Family in the U.S.—artists, audiences, donors, board members, executive directors, interns, volunteers, colleagues, and partners—can be proud of the 54 years we made alive the simple and daring notion of Father Merlet. “On the one hand, to give talented young musicians the boost they need to build major performing careers. On the other hand, to bring live concerts to those least likely to be exposed to classical music.” The Boston Globe

On a personal note, working closely with Father Merlet—from my first day as Executive Director in July 1990 until our final days together in December 2011—has been a profoundly rewarding experience. If asked to describe him in one word, I would use the word Cynthia Glacken chose at his 40th ordination anniversary “surprise party” on December 15, 1993—INDEFATIGABLE.

Father Merlet was truly a tireless pioneer, who toward the end of his life wrote: “Music responds to the world’s profound thirst for beauty, and the peace, truth and freedom which it inspires. The task before us is a great one—to make alive for all humanity the experience of beauty, and the revelation of insights that words cannot grasp.”

Yours, John E. Haag
Executive Director, 1990-2023