Jack Skurnick (March 1910 - September 1952) was the founder and director of EMS Recordings and publisher and editor of the highly regarded music review, Just Records.
Skurnick worked in a music store on West 44th Street near Madison Avenue in New York; the store was owned by his parents, Max and Anna Skurnick. The Elaine Music Shop had many loyal customers. Doris Day bought records there, and many of the great classical musicians came in to make purchases and chat with Skurnick. One of these was Edgard Varèse; another was Safford Cape, director of Pro Musica Antiqua. When Skurnick started his record company, EMS, he named it after the shop. He also convinced Cape and Varese to record with him. EMS was the first label to record Varese.
In the magazine, which became internationally known, Skurnick sought to build respect for music as an art and to raise performance standards. In the EMS recordings, he put these principles into practice. His aim was to record a history of music, with special attention to the lesser known masterpieces, in performances that would be a model of authentic musicianship. He had mapped out plans far into the future when his work was suddenly interrupted.
Skurnick played the violin.
A movie buff, he wrote a script that he shot himself. Film director Jules Dassin, then an actor at the Artef, a Jewish theater in New York, appeared in it. It was shown to a small group at a space Skurnick rented in New York. A fan of old movies, Skurnick twice rented a hall in which to show them. Because he was not able to afford to rent the space regularly, he suggested the project to Betty Chamberlain, Director of the Department of Communications at The Museum of Modern Art from 1948–53, who subsequently introduced a more elaborate series of films at MoMA.
Skurnick was married to the painter, Fay Kleinman for 18 years, and had one daughter, Davida. After her marriage, Davida has been known as Davi Napoleon. She had two sons, Brian and Randy Napoleon, and a grandson, Jack Napoleon, who is named after him. Kleinman died in 2012.
Skurnick died of a heart attack on September 6, 1952.
- "Ypsi-based artist Fay Kleinman dead at 99". Annarbor.com. 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
- Conly, John M. "They Shall Have Music" in The Atlantic, September 1960, p. 107. Jack Skurnick's work with recording engineer Robert Blake at EMS Recordings is explored.
- Safford Cape: A Discography
- Biography of Charles Rosen, pianist
- Steophile magazine names the best recordings, including "EDGARD VARÈSE: The Varèse Record Ionisation, Density 21.5, Interpolations from Déserts, Octandre, Intégrales", notes Frank Zappa's interest in EMS
- LA Times documents Jack Skurnick's work and its influence on Frank Zappa