Gunther Schuller: Hearing, Writing and Reading America

Gunther Schuller: Hearing, Writing and Reading America
The Reflective Leader
© photo courtesy NEC
"Gunther Schuller is a key witness to American musical culture." So declares Bruce Brubaker, Chair of New England Conservatory's Piano Department and director of NEC's Schuller celebration "I Hear America: Gunther Schuller at 80." Schuller's birthday falls on 22 November and the festival - which takes place from 14-16 November - focuses on this Pulitzer Prize- and MacArthur Foundation- winner's monumental contribution to American music.

Brubaker continues, "[Schuller is] renowned as a composer, conductor, historian, publisher, hornist and educator. In his pioneering study Early Jazz, his rediscovery of ragtime, his championing of the American symphonists; in his transcriptions of Ellington, and his recording of Babbitt; during his presidency of New England Conservatory, and his leadership of the Tanglewood Music Center, Gunther Schuller heard America. As he turns 80, we have an opportunity to understand more fully the significance of Schuller's work. He wrote America and he read America - in a manner as diverse and expressive as the United States itself."

Festival events highlight several jazz programs and all-Schuller concerts - including the second performance of his Grand Concerto for Percussion and Keyboards which premiered this year at Tanglewood. A panel discussion on "An American Repertory" features the composer and conductor James Levine as a preview to the Boston Symphony's own performances of Schuller's Spectra on the 17th-22nd.

Ever the man on the go, Schuller wraps up a composer residency at the University of Wisconsin and then leaps into rehearsals for the Northwest Bach Festival, where he serves as music director. He also travels to Florida for the New World Symphony's concerts of Of Reminiscences and Reflections conducted by Oliver Knussen. Schuller is currently finishing up Volume I of his autobiography for Oxford University Press. Upcoming 80th birthday season activities include concerts by Collage New Music, Boston Musica Viva, and the Delaware and Jacksonville Symphonies.

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