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Music instruction at Hollins University takes place in historic Presser Hall, a handsome three-story brick structure built in 1925 through the generosity of Theodore Presser, who taught music at Hollins from 1880 to 1883. One of the premier music educators of his day, Presser founded the Music Teachers National Association, The Presser Foundation, and the Theodore Presser Publishing Company, the oldest independent music publisher in the United States. While at Hollins, Presser drafted the first edition of Etude magazine, a publication that grew to be the world's largest music periodical. One of his last philanthropic acts was to establish a fund for the construction of Presser Halls, buildings devoted to music education and located on campuses of small colleges with reputations for excellent music programs.
In 1925, Theodore Presser donated $56,000 to build a music facility at Hollins as an expression of his friendship and admiration for Charles L. Cocke. The building on the Hollins campus is unique among the existing Presser Halls in that it is the very first of the Presser music buildings, constructed under Theodore Presser's personal authorization and completed during his lifetime. Located on the university's back quadrangle just northwest of Main Building, Presser Hall is connected to the historic Front Quadrangle by a covered walkway and bridge that provide access to the building's second floor. The facility houses the Erich Rath Music Library and Listening Center, dedicated in 1971 and named for a revered Hollins music professor and director who was instrumental in designing the music building. The music library contains more than 15,000 sound recordings, scores, and volumes for reference and study. Hollins' Presser Hall became a prototype for other Presser music buildings throughout the country.
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