Guide to the Otto Kunitz Music Collection (1904 – 1942) – History

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Otto Gustave Kunitz (1871-1935) was born in Santa Cruz, the son of Ernest and Henrietta (Marwede) Kunitz. Otto’s father arrived in Santa Cruz in 1851 with Frederick A. Hihn. Ernest became a prosperous businessman, a soap and glue manufacturer. His son, Otto, graduated from Santa Cruz High School and began his training in music. Later, he spent six years at the Schwarenka Conservatory of Music in Berlin, where he studied piano and composition. He returned to California in 1902 and for fifteen years lived in Los Angeles, where he played professionally, taught, and composed songs and music for the piano. He returned to the family’s Locust Street home in Santa Cruz in 1917, where he continued to teach and contribute to community appreciation of classical music. He was a well known philatelist, stamp collector, and flower enthusiast. He died on July 31, 1935. On December 29, 1935 the local musicians contributed to a musical program conducted at the First Methodist Church to commemorate Otto Kunitz’s interest in and contribution to music in Santa Cruz County. The donation of the Otto Kunitz Music Library in 1937 formed the nucleus of what became the Art and Music Room of the Santa Cruz Public Library. The collection is currently made available by The Museum of Art & History.


The above photo is of Otto Kunitz’s old house on Locust Street.  The lady sitting down in the middle is Otto’s mother.