The first four presidents of the AVS, from left to right: David Dalton (1986–90), Maurice Riley (1981–86), Alan de Veritch (1990–94), and Myron Rosenblum (1971–81) (photo courtesy of Dwight Pounds)
In 1971 Myron Rosenblum founded the American Viola Research Society, an independent section of the Viola-Forschungsgesellschaft (a predecessor of the current International Viola Society). Activities included the publication of a newsletter and the production of International Viola Congresses (IVC), starting with IVC III, hosted by Maurice Riley at Eastern Michigan University in 1975.
The organization changed its name in 1978 to the American Viola Society (AVS) to better reflect the interests of its members. In 1979 David Dalton founded the Primrose International Viola Competition (PIVC) in honor of the great Scottish-American violist William Primrose. That same year, the American Viola Society co-commissioned George Rochberg’s Viola Sonata in celebration of Primrose's seventy-fifth birthday.
Jury and winners of the First Primrose International Viola Competition, from left to right: Ralph Aldrich, Jun Takahira, William Primrose, Geraldine Walther, Patricia McCarty, Joseph de Pasquale (photo courtesy of PIVA)
As an organization, the AVS saw dramatic development during the 1980s, adopting its first bylaws and successfully establishing itself as a registered non-profit organization in the USA. In 1981 the Primrose International Viola Archive (PIVA), the official archive of the AVS, was established at Brigham Young University. The AVS newsletter expanded in scope, becoming the Journal of the American Viola Society (JAVS) in 1985. Since that time, the JAVS has served as a leading source of viola research, notably publishing several articles on the genesis and revision of Béla Bartók’s Viola Concerto.
Evolution of the AVS’s official publication from Newsletter to JAVS
To further the organization’s mission of encouraging performance and developing friendship among violists, the AVS initiated local chapters during the 1990s. The AVS also extended its commitment to education with the production of a geographically based National Teacher Directory. Upon retirement of David Dalton as longtime editor in 1999, the JAVS established the David Dalton Viola Research Competition for student members of the society.
Participants of the Gulf Coast Viola Society’s 2010 Viola Festival (photo courtesy of Bruce Owen)
First-prize winners of the Primrose International Viola Competition Jennifer Stumm (2005) and Dimitri Murrath (2008) (photo courtesy of Dwight Pounds)
The twenty-first century has seen significant growth in existing programs, including heightened prominence of the PIVC and JAVS, as well as the establishment of new initiatives by the organization, including additional viola-related competitions and web-based publishing and educational projects. Continuing its long history of partnering with organizations, the AVS maintains strong ties with the Primrose International Viola Archive, the International Viola Society, and many other groups at the local, national, and international level. The AVS remains committed to the promotion of the viola and its related activities by encouraging excellence in performance, pedagogy, research, composition, and lutherie and by fostering communication and friendship among violists of all skill levels, ages, nationalities, and backgrounds. A list of current AVS projects includes:
• Journal of the American Viola Society
• David Dalton Viola Research Competition
• AVS E-Newsletter
• AVS Website
• Social Media
• Studio Blog
• Teacher’s Toolbox
• Viola Bank
• Teachers’ Directory
• Health and Wellness Resources
• Primrose International Viola Competition
• Maurice Gardner Composition Competition
• Publication of Scores
• Grassroots and Regional efforts
• Outreach Projects