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Composers Datebook: William Schuman's Birthday

August 5, 2010

In honor of a great composer of wind music, here is today's Composers Datebook, celebrating William Schuman's 100th birthday.

 

Composers Datebook audio (8/5/2010)

 

William Schuman at 100

 

By the time of his death in 1998, pop singer Frank Sinatra was such a domineering figure in his field that he was known as "The Chairman of the Board." By the time of his death in 1992, the same nickname might have applied to the American composer William Schuman, who was, at various times, director of publications for G. Schirmer, president of the Juilliard School, president of Lincoln Center, and on the board many other important American musical institutions.

 

Willliam Schuman even looked the part of a distinguished, well-dressed C.E.O. Oddly enough, he came rather late to classical music.

 

Schuman was born one hundred years ago, on today's date in 1910. As a teenager in New York City, he was more interested in baseball than music, even though his dance band was the rage of Washington High School. It was with some reluctance that 19-year old Billy Schuman was dragged to a New York Philharmonic concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini. The program included a symphony by someone named ROBERT Schumann, and Billy was pretty impressed.

 

A few years later, in 1933, when he heard the First Symphony of the contemporary American composer Roy Harris, Schuman was hooked, and soon was writing concert music himself. By 1941, when his Third Symphony premiered, Schuman was recognized as a major talent, and in 1943, he was awarded the First Pulitzer Prize for Music.

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