By the time Coolidge commissioned the ballets in honor of her 80th birthday, she had built an impressive career as a champion of chamber music in the United States. Her first chamber music festival in 1918, at the tail end of World War I, brought musicians from various backgrounds together in the Berkshires near Pittsfield, MA (better known today for nearby Tanglewood and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, both of which carry on legacies of new and experimental chamber music performance). In an interview recorded for radio broadcast the day before Appalachian Spring premiered on October 30, 1944, Coolidge detailed this first festival in the Berkshires in an explanation of her history as a patron and organizer:
“…in the September of the next year, 1918, just a few weeks before the Armistice was signed,” she says, “we gathered in the little mountain temple[…]and there held our first Berkshire Festival of Chamber Music. Among us were members of the warring nations—French and German, Austrian and Italian—glad to be friends again for a few hours in the presence of nature and music.”
When Coolidge recorded those words for radio in 1944, yet another World War was raging, and her legacy had grown beyond the Berkshire Chamber Music Festival. She had built a chamber music series at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., providing capital for artist bursaries as well as funding the construction of the Coolidge Auditorium, built in the mid-1920s by enclosing an existing courtyard in the Library of Congress building adjacent to the Music Division. The auditorium was wired for recording, at Coolidge’s insistence, so that the concert series could be broadcast on multiple national radio networks. Throughout the 1920s and beyond, Coolidge encouraged numerous artists, some already established and others as they struggled, to build recognition as composers and performers—including Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, Ernest Bloch, and Rebecca Clarke, in addition to Martha Graham and Aaron Copland.