Monday, August 3, 2015

william howard schuman

William Howard Schuman
 (August 4, 1910 – February 15, 1992)

This American composer and educator gave up baseball and business to enrich the lives of ordinary people with classical music.  As a child, he learned to play violin and banjo, and, in his teens organized a dance orchestra.  However, during this time baseball was his primary passion:    “Had I been a better catcher, I might never have been a musician.” 

He sought a business degree at New York University's School of Commerce, while working for an advertising agency.   He collaborated on pop music with E. B. Marks, Jr., an old friend; and wrote dozens of songs with his neighbor, lyricist Frank Loesser.  It was not until he was dragged to his first classical concert by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra that he wanted to be a classical composer:  “I was knocked cold! It literally changed my life  ...  I was astounded at seeing the sea of stringed instruments, and everybody bowing together. The visual thing alone was astonishing. But the sound! I was overwhelmed. I had never heard anything like it. The very next day, I decided to become a composer."

He dropped out of business school to study music at the Malkin Conservatory and later got a degree in music education from Teachers College at Columbia University.   He secured a teaching position at Sarah Lawrence College and started a new integrative course of study that combined music history and theory in a way that encouraged the creative process.    It was during his tenure there that he won the first Pulitzer Prize for Music.  

He went on to become president of the Juilliard School and the first president of Lincoln Center.  In 1987 he received the National Medal of Arts.   He would express his vision for bringing classical music to the general public in a speech in 1962:    "Too much of academic pursuit of the arts is concerned with talk or writing about art - talk about form, talk about expression, talk about execution, talk about talk and writing about other writing - but not with art in direct experience, not with performing a great play or symphony, not with making a poem, a dance, a painting. We best come to know the arts not by prodigious feats of reading and talking, but by not so simple acts of trying to create and perform works of art, and by cultivating the techniques of penetrative criticism."

American Festival Overture (1939)

New England Triptych (1956, based on melodies by William Billings)

Night Journey (1947, written for Martha Graham)   full piece

String Quartet No. 3 (1939)

The Mighty Casey (1953, based on Ernest Thayer's "Casey at the Bat")

Newsreel, in Five Shots (1941)

A Free Song (1943)  the first Pulitzer Prize awarded in music

George Washington Bridge (1950)

Undertow (1945, written for Antony Tudor)

Prayer in Time of War, originally titled Prayer 1943 (1943)

Judith (1949, written for Martha Graham)

Selected Symphonies:

Symphony No. 1 (1935)
Symphony No. 2 (1937)
Symphony No. 3 (1941)
Symphony No. 4 (1941)
Symphony for Strings (Symphony No. 5) (1943)
Symphony No. 6 (1948)
Symphony No. 7 (1960) part one   /   part two 
Symphony No. 8 (1962)
Symphony No. 9 Le fosse Ardeatine (1968) part one  /  part two  /  part three
Symphony No. 10 American Muse (1976)

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