Gunther Schuller (1925-2015)
22nd June 2015
Early in his music career he played horn with the American Ballet Theater, then became principal horn of the Cincinnati Symphony. At the age of 21, he became first horn of the Metropolitan Opera. He had begun to compose as well, and premiered his first horn concerto with Cincinnati. He also performed jazz, notably as horn player on Miles Davis's "Birth of the Cool" recording. His work in jazz and classical led him to coin the term "Third Stream," music mixing the flow of both sources.
As an educator, he first taught at the Manhattan School of Music from 1950 to 1953. Non-stop composing, performing, conducting, and teaching across genres took its toll, and in 1959 he retired from performing. From 1964 to 1967 he was Professor of Composition at Yale University. In 1963 Schuller began teaching at the Berkshire Music Center (at Tanglewood) and became its Artistic Director.
Later, as President of the New England Conservatory, he established its jazz degree and created the Third Stream department (subsequently the Contemporary Improvisation department). Schuller founded the New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble and recorded "Scott Joplin: The Red Back Book," which won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance, and influenced the soundtrack of the popular film "The Sting."
Altogether he wrote almost 200 works, spanning all musical genres including solo works, orchestral works, chamber music, opera, and jazz.
He authored many books, including Horn Technique (1962), Early Jazz: its Roots and Musical Development (1968) and its sequel the Swing Era: the Development of Jazz, 1930-1945, The Compleat Conductor (1997), and the first volume of his memoirs, Gunther Schuller: A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty (2011).
Among Schuller's awards were Columbia University's William Schuman Award (1988), the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award (1991), a Pulitzer Prize for Of Reminiscences and Reflections (1994), the Gold Medal for Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1997), a Jazz Masters Fellowship (for advocacy) from the National Endowment for the Arts (2008), and a lifetime achievement medal from the MacDowell Colony (2015).
Photo by Joel SmirnoffDiscover more:
• National Public Radio's Deceptive Cadence, obituary by Anastasia Tsioulcas
• New York Times, obituary by Allan Kozinn
• Of Reminiscences and Reflections 1994 Pulitzer Prize in Music
• Cleveland Institute of Music, Commencement Address, May 2015