The Debt of the Artist

Mitropoulos, Dimitri, 1896-1960


  • Dimitri Mitropolous describes two experiences, that led him to his belief that talent and celebrity should be used to help others.
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Dmitri Mitropoulos, the New York Philharmonic Symphony's Greek-born conductor and music director, is an incredibly energetic man. With a memory almost as famous as his superb musical skill, he is also, as his credo demonstrates, a sincere and responsible human being.
Very early in my life, an important event took place: in my impressionable and youthful years, I discovered the
personality of St. Francis. Since that time, my main ambition has been canalized into a strong desire to serve my neighbor by putting at his disposal the fruits of my knowledge, the results of my studying, the development of my innate talent, and the development of my skill as a performer; plus, my love!
My dream has always been to master myself for the sake of serving better and being of more use to my fellow man. My concern and love for him made me realize an additional responsibility, which my fame as an artist brought to me, and that is my responsibility as a human being towards those of my fellow men who might look to me for guidance. Soon after I had the privilege to come to this country, I realized how important it was to become an example, and I will mention two events which have reinforced this, my belief.
Some years ago, during the war, I heard that the Blood Bank of the Red Cross, which served in Minneapolis and its vicinity, needed badly assistance. Naturally, they were not able to pay for all that they needed, so I decided to take my vacation by accepting this responsible job of blood custodian. I was driving in a truck to various towns within a hundred miles of Minneapolis and taking charge of setting up the Mobile Unit in each town. The Red Cross administration thought it advisable to advertise the fact that I was working for them, in order to attract public interest. It went to the point where some people probably thought that I was going to entertain them with music during the bleeding, which I certainly would not have refused to do, in spite of the amount of work I had to do, if the doctors hadn't forbidden such an enjoyable treatment because they wouldn't be able to hear the pulses of the patients.
Now, the next event was during the time I was conducting the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra in Philadelphia, also during the war. There was a terrific scandal of misguided youths in the high schools mistreating and insulting Jewish boys. Nobody seemed to be able to stop this tragic epidemic, either the teachers in the schools or the preachers in the churches. Finally, Mr. Samuels, at that time the mayor, had the inspired idea of bringing a popular movie star to speak to the various schools, an event which stopped, like a miracle, all those tragedies.
From that I developed the theory that all people who have the chance to enjoy the responsibility of being famous, regardless for what
reason or in what profession, can be of a terrific help in this confused world of today--and in general, I would say--by setting an example of sound moral thinking and integrity, as human beings, as well as in their profession. I came even to the point of realizing that any skill of any kind, physical or mental, or any artistic achievement, unless it is based on a moral purpose, cannot claim to have any value or any plausible reason to exist.
Those are the beliefs of an artist, Maestro Dmitri Mitropoulos, conductor of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.