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Legendary composer-musician Gunther Schuller to join ASU’s Herberger College as visiting artist

January 15, 2004

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gunther Schuller is coming to Arizona State University. The multi-faceted scholar, composer, conductor, teacher, author, music publisher and advocate for the arts will serve as a distinguished artist in residence in the Herberger College of Fine Art’s School of Music beginning in February. He also will hold the Katherine K. Herberger Heritage Chair for Visiting Artists.

“Gunther Schuller’s presence at ASU promises to be energizing,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “He is a much sought-after arts visionary and his impact will be felt by students and faculty, as well as the metropolitan Phoenix community.”

Schuller, 78, became the principal horn with the prestigious Cincinnati Symphony at age 17, played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Zappa and won both a Pulitzer and the McArthur Foundation ‘genius’ Award in his 60s. In between, he won a Grammy, composed music, led major American musical organizations and wrote what is considered the ‘Bible’ of swing-era jazz.

He will conduct 10-week residencies at ASU annually.

This spring, he will conduct two School of Music concerts featuring jazz and band ensembles, as well as host an open public discussion on his work recreating great jazz repertoire. He also will teach a conducting seminar called Listening 101: The Intelligent Study of Scores.

"I am delighted to return to ASU to work with these incredible faculty and student musicians with whom I worked last year,” Schuller said. “Their commitment to excellence and their love of music has been a real inspiration for me."

Schuller is one of the foremost experts on the genres and musical forms he has worked with for more than 60 years. He amassed a lifetime of observations on conducting in his book, The Compleat Conductor. His extensive writings on jazz, music performance, contemporary music, music aesthetics and education have been issued in the collection, Musings: The Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller. His monumental jazz history, The Swing Era, was published in 1989. Other books include Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical DevelopmentThe Art of Jazz: Ragtime to Bebop and Horn Technique.

He has created more than 160 original compositions, which include his 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning work, Of Reminiscences and Reflections, plus An Arc AscendingThe Past is in the Present, and Ritmica-Melodica-Armonica.

As editor-in-chief of Jazz Masterworks Editions and co-director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra in Washington, D.C., Schuller sustained American jazz performance traditions. During his tenure at the New England Conservatory, Schuller helped reintroduce the music of Scott Joplin to the American public, in part through his development of the conservatory’s Ragtime Ensemble. Under his direction it won a 1973 Grammy Award for its performance of Joplin’s The Red Back Book.

In addition, he was editor of Charles Mingus’ immense final work, Epitaph, which received a posthumous premiere at Lincoln Center in 1989 and subsequently was released on Columbia/Sony Records. He also founded of two publishing and recording companies, Margun Music and GM Recordings.

Schuller’s many awards include the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for composing, a 1991 MacArthur Foundation “genius” Award, inaugural member of the American Classical Music Hall of Fame, DownBeat Lifetime Achievement Award, the Gold Medal for Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the BMI Lifetime Achievement Award, and the William Schuman Award from Columbia University for “lifetime achievement in American music composition.” He has been awarded 12 honorary degrees.

Schuller was born in New York to German immigrants. As a youngster he studied flute, horn and music theory. At age 17 he joined the Cincinnati Symphony as principal horn and at age19 became a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Schuller also became active in the New York bebop scene, performing and recording with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and John Lewis. He also has worked with Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony, Aaron Copland, Ornette Coleman, Leonard Bernstein, Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, John Updike, Joe Lovano, Elvis Costello, Wynton Marsalis, Frank Zappa and many more.

At 25, he began a distinguished teaching career as a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music where he taught horn. His academic positions have included professor of composition at the School of Music at Yale, president of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and artistic director of the Tanglewood Berkshire Music Center and The Festival at Sandpoint in Idaho. 

Media Contact:
Jennifer Pringle