Volume 19, No.4 - Winter 1973
Editors of this issue: Antanas Klimas, Thomas Remeikis, Bronius Vaskelis
Copyright © 1973 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.   


Chicago State University

Prof. Juozas Žilevičius, L. M.

Juozas Žilevičius has contributed to many areas of Lithuanian cultural life both in his
native Lithuania and in the United States. He is an accomplished musician, a
distinguished composer, teacher, organist, historian, musicologist, one of the
organizers of the Lithuanian opera in Kaunas, Lithuania, a fine director and
organizer of instrumental and choral groups, and, the organizer and curator of a
vast collection of Lithuanian musical materials.

His Life

Juozas Žilevičius was born on March 16, 1891, in Lithuania. His musical study began
with Napoleon Sasnauskas in Plungė where Žilevičius later became a choral director
and organist of a large parish in 1908. The excellence of his musicianship and the
quality of his choir became well known throughout the surrounding district in
Lithuania. At this time he became well acquainted with the Lithuanian artist
composer M. K.

Čiurlionis. Žilevičius heard Čiurlionis perform on many occasions and he also had
many opportunities to speak with Čiurlionis. As a result of these discussions with
Čiurlionis Žilevičius considers Čiurlionis to be his "first" composition teacher.

During the summers of 1910 -1912, Žilevičius studied music in Warsaw with Vl.
Lipkowski and M. Surzynski. At the outbreak of World War I he went to St.
Petersburg where he became a music teacher at the St. Catherine men's high

In 1915 Žilevičius was accepted as a student at the St. Petersburg Imperial
Conservatory where he graduated in 1919 with a degree that is equivalent to the
Master of Music degree. As part of his graduation requirements he had written a
Symphony in F Major — the first symphony to be composed by a Lithuanian. Among
his teachers at the St. Petersburg Conservatory were A. Glazu-nov and N. Sokolava
(music literature), M. Karatigini (aesthetics, music history and style), Calafatti
(harmony and accompaniment), Perova (wind instruments), Kubilinski, Vinogradova
and Baranovą (piano), J. Vitolis. Zi-tomilski, M. Steinberg (music form and analysis),
Cer-nova (orchestration) and Tcherepnin (score analysis).

Žilevičius became well acquainted with the Lithuanian composer Česlovas
Sasnauskas in St. Petersburg. After the death of Sasnauskas in 1916 Žilevičius
acquired and popularized many of Sasnauskas' compositions.

After Žilevičius received his diploma in 1919 from the Imperial Conservatory he
accepted a position in Vitebsk. It was in Vitebsk that he acquired the rank of
professor of music and taught musical courses until August of 1920.

Žilevičius returned to Lithuania in 1920 and immediately became involved with
Lithuanian cultural affairs. He became the administrator of the Kaunas theater and
in 1922 he was designated by the Lithuanian government as the Minister of Arts. As
a member of the Lithuanian opera council he was instrumental in organizing the first
opera performances in Lithuania and also became one of the first conductors of the
opera orchestra. He also taught at a Lithuanian art studio, a music school, and
participated for three years on an archeology commission.

As Minister of the Arts Žilevičius prepared and implemented a music and singing
program for the schools and for three successive summers directed courses
preparing music teachers. He also prepared a booklet for young singers which
contained 100 songs using the D. Andrulis method. Žilevičius published this booklet
in 1927.

In 1924 Žilevičius was invited to become a faculty member of the Klaipėda music
school. By 1926 he became the director of this school. During his stay in Klaipėda
he organized a Lithuanian folk lore group and supplied funds for their activities. This
group collected over three hundred Lithuanian folk instruments that were
permanently displayed in his Klaipėda home. Among those who demonstrated these
folk instruments were: Juozas Novakauskas, Juozas Narsutis, Alfonsas Mikulskis,
Kazys Baltramiejus, Juozas Bertulis, Juozas Pakalnis and Jonas Švedas. The folk
instrument collection was also exhibited in Kaunas and Tauragė and was known as
the "Juozas Žilevičius Collection of Lithuanian Musical Instruments."

In 1923 Žilevičius took the initiative to organize the first Lithuanian Song Festival
which took place on August 23 and 24, 1924. In 1924 he published a Music Almanac
that described the activities of Lithuanian choruses. During the summer of 1923
Žilevičius organized a symphony orchestra that presented 32 concerts. It was during
one of these concerts that his Symphony in F Major was performed.

In 1929 the Lithuanian government sent Juozas Žilevičius and his family to the
United States for a three-year period so that he could become acquainted with
Lithuanian American cultural activities. He settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and
became the organist and choir director of St. Peter and Paul parish. Before he left
Lithuania in 1929 Žilevičius packed his musicological collection and left it with his
close friend Canon Juozas Giniatas, Pastor of Gargždai, Lithuania. At the insistence
of his wife,

Žilevičius chose a few of the more unique and rarer items from his collection and
brought them to the United States. Instead of remaining three years he remained
ten but was still unable to return to his homeland because of the outbreak of fighting
between Germany and Russia. He was compelled to remain in the United States and
later received word that the Germans had burned the town of Gargždai including the
entire Žilevičius musicological collection housed with Canon Juozas Giniatas. Upon
his arrival in the United States Žilevičius quickly became active in Lithuanian
American cultural activities. In 1930 he urged that the Lithuanian Americans
commemorate the 500th year anniversary of the death of Vytautas the Great. He
was, elected chairman of the committee that planned the event and on June 1,
1930, in Carnegie Hall, he conducted a 500 voice choir in a song festival
commemorating the anniversary. He also directed song festivals in many other
Lithuanian centers during that commemorative year. He was also instrumental in
organizing the Alliance of Lithuanian Parish choirs. Between 1932 and 1952 this
organization presented an annual song festival. Juozas Žilevičius was always the
director of the choruses.

Prof. Žilevičius working at his desk in the Archive.

In 1939 the Lithuanian government had its own pavilion and Lithuanian Day at the
New York Worlds Fair. On September 10, 1939, Žilevičius directed 60 choruses,
consisting of about 3000 singers, at the Lithuanian Day festivities. In order to
prepare for the event, Žilevičius visited and rehearsed each choir, separately,
during the summer preceding the Lithuanian Day.

During the 1956 American and Canadian Lithuanian Song Festival held in Chicago
Žilevičius was the honorary conductor. He was the honorary chairman of the 1961
song festival that took place in Chicago and was a member of the 1964 New York
Worlds' fair song festival repertoire committee.

The Musicological Archive

The year 1920 is considered by Žilevičius as the year when the Lithuanian
Musicological Archive was born. He brought back several boxes from St. Petersburg
to Lithuania of items he had been collecting.

When Žilevičius arrived in the United States in 1929 he greatly expanded his
technique of collecting materials for his archive. At one time there were over one
hundred co-workers and correspondents helping him in numerous Lithuanian
American communities. Žilevičius has been successful in expanding the archives
and replacing many of the items that were destroyed in Lithuania.

Since Juozas Žilevičius was unable to return to Lithuania because of the outbreak of
World War II, and, since his health was failing, he became concerned with the future
disposition of his collection. He tried to find a temporary home for the archive at the
New York public library, the Library of Congress, and elsewhere. In 1960, Žilevičius
donated his entire collection to free, independent Lithuania. The musicological
archive was accepted by the late former General Consul of Lithuania, Dr. Petras
Daužvardis, as the property of free independent Lithuania.

The archive was formally named the Juozas Žilevičius Library of Lithuanian
Musicology. The official transfer and opening of the archive took place on October
5, 1960, at 2345 West 56th Street Chicago III., the home of the Lithuanian Jesuits in
Chicago. About three thousand pounds of materials had been shipped from
Elizabeth, N. J., the former home of Žilevičius. A committee was organized to
oversee the operation of the library. Financial help became dependent upon
donations from individuals and various organizations.

Donated materials seem to arrive almost daily along with requests for photostats
copies of materials housed in the library. It is difficult to comply with all requests
because of the lack of help. Musicians and students have come from present-day
Lithuania to visit the library for research materials. According to Žilevičius, who is
partially blind, almost every visitor is surprised to find that most of the work of
running the Archive is performed by him. This unique archive is probably the only
one of its type in the world.

The Juozas Žilevičius Library of Lithuanian Musicology has over three hundred
thousand items in the collection. The activities, photographs, biographies, histories,
reviews of concerts, copies of concert programs, posters and any other pertinent
and available materials are collected for every individual or musical group that is
included in the collection. Musical instruments, books, periodicals, published musical
compositions and compositions in manuscript are found in abundance in the
archive. The entire collection is divided into eight basic divisions:

1) American Lithuanian musical activities
2) Biographies of Lithuanian musicians
3) Published compositions, musical manuscript photostats and photographs of
musical compositions
4) Lithuanian folk music and folk lore
5) Lithuanian music after 1940
6) General items of musicological interest
7) Auxiliary musicology
8) Phonograph records, piano rolls, magnetic tape recordings, microfilms

Literary Contributions

The earliest literary contribution written by Žilevičius appeared in 1908 in Viltis. His
articles have also appeared in Šaltinis, Garnis, Rygos Garsas, and Lietuvių Balsas.
In 1920 he was a member of the editorial staff of Menas (Art) and in 1924 he
published and edited Muzikos Almanachas (Music Almanac). In 1925 he became the
editor of Muzika, a publication of the Klaipėda Music School. In 1940 he became a
member of the editorial staff of Muzikos Žinios (Music News). In Lithuania his articles
appeared in Lietuva, Rytas, Baras, Skaitymuose, Švietimo Darbas, Gairės, Vairas,
Židinys, Naujoji Romuva and Klaipėdos Žinios.

Among the more important published articles by Žilevičius are the following:
"Dainavimas ir muzika mokyklose" (Singing and Music in the Schools) in Švietimo
Darbas, 1922-1926; "Spalvingumas ir M. K. Čiurlionis" (Color and M. K. Čiurlionis) in
Baras, Nos. 9 -10., 1925; biographies and a lengthy article about Lithuanian music
in A Dictionary of Modern Music and Musicians, 1924; "Muzikos dėstymo metodika"
(Method of Teaching Music) in Muzikos Menas and Muzika, 1924-1925; "Liaudies
muzikos instrumentai" (Folk Instruments) in Iliustruota Lietuva, 1927; "Muzikinė
kultūra Lietuvoj" (Music Culture in Lithuania) in Židinys, 1935; "Native Lithuanian
Musical Instruments" in The Musical Quarterly, 1935; "Amerikos lietuvių muzikos
garsuose" in Naujoji Romuva, beginning in 1936; "Mitologinė lietuvių muzikos
pradžia" (The Mythological Beginnings of Lithuanian Music) in Naujoji Romuva,
1936; "Kanklės mitologijoje, legendose ir tautosakoje" (The Zither in Mythology,
Legends and Folk-lore) in Vairas, Nos. 7-8, 1937; "St. Šimkaus biografija"
(Biography of St. Šimkus) in Margutis beginning in 1939; "A. Vanagaitis" a V.
Alantas 1954 publication; "Mažosios Lietuvių liaudies muzikos bruožai" (Highlights of
folk music found in Lithuania Minor) in Mažoji Lietuva, 1958. With V. Banaitis
Žilevičius prepared materials regarding Lithuanian music for an Italian language
encyclopedia published by Ricordi Co.

In the United States he prepared articles for the following Lithuanian and English
publications: Draugas, Amerika, Darbininkas, Vienybė, Studentų Žodis, Ateitis, Lux
Christi, Aidai, Dirva, The Musical Quarterly, Muzikos Žinios, Vytis, Varpas and
Lituanus. He also was the music editor for the Lithuanian Encyclopedia published in
the United States. Recently Žilevičius prepared biographies of Lithuanian musicians
and composers for inclusion in the new edition of the German Riemann Musik

Among larger publications are his biographies of Česlovas Sasnauskas (1935) and
Antanas Vanagaitis (1954), Lietuvis vargoninkas išeivijoje (The Lithuanian
Immigrant Organist), 1971; "Lietuvos muzikos vardynas" (A Dietionary of Lithuanian
Musicians) published as a supplement in many issues of Muzikos Žinios; "Aušra ir
lietuviškoji muzika" (The Dawn of Lithuanian Music) published as a supplement to
Muzikos Žinios, 1957. Žilevičius still has several completed, unpublished

Prof. J. Žilevičius in a corner of the Archive of Lithuanian Musicology in 1966.

Musical Compositions

Juozas Žilevičius has composed and harmonized about 400 compositions and about
300 of them have been published. It is noteworthy that the first symphony to be
composed by a Lithuanian was written by Žilevičius. This Symphony in F Major had
its premiere performance on July 27, 1923, in Kaunas, Lithuania, and was repeated
later on radio broadcasts in Riga, Latvia, and in Kaunas. His instrumental
compositions include a string quartet, an octet, Aušra (Dawn) for violin and piano, a
march for orchestra and variations and fugues for piano.

Beginning in 1920 two series of vocal solos with piano accompaniment and various
choral compositions' were published in Lithuania. In the United States, his Cantata,
Vytautas the Great, and operetta — Lietuvaitė, and religious music, using either
Latin of Lithuanian texts, were published. His musical compositions, especially the
choral works, are frequently performed.

In his early works Žilevičius adhered to classical traditions, however, his later works,
especially those written in the United States, reveal the incorporation of newer
tendencies. All of his compositions are imbued with Lithuanian folk idioms. His
original choral compositions and harmonizations of folk melodies show that he did
not distort the flow of poetic lines even though he used polyphonic techniques. His
instrumental and vocal works are sonorous, colorful, well-written and have a
tendency to use flowing melodies incorporating a Lithuanian spirit.

* * *

Juozas Žilevičius has made a significant contribution to Lithuanian musical culture
and its propagation to other national groups. As a writer, he was one of the pioneers
in the area of compiling information and writing about the history of Lithuanian music
and its musicians. As a composer, he composed the first Lithuanian symphony and
is considered to be one of Lithuania's leading post-World War I composers. As a
musicologist he has spent the greater part of his lifetime gathering materials relating
to Lithuanian music and its musicians. He has acquired over three hundred
thousand Lituanistic musical items! *

The Lithuanian government recognized the contributions made by Prof. Juozas
Žilevičius by bestowing upon him the third order of Gediminas in 1935.

* An illustrated brochure describing the general contents of the archive is published
and available from The Juozas Žilevičius Library of Lithuanian Musicology, 2345
West 56th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60636.