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Gunther Schuller

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Title: Gunther Schuller  
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Subject: Charles Mingus, Ragtime, Pulitzer Prize for Music, Eric Dolphy, Dizzy Gillespie
Collection: 1925 Births, 2015 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Musicians, 20Th-Century Classical Composers, American Classical Composers, American Jazz Educators, American Male Classical Composers, American Opera Composers, American People of German Descent, Culture of Boston, Massachusetts, Grammy Award Winners, Guggenheim Fellows, Horn Players, Jazz Musicians from New York, Living People, MacArthur Fellows, Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Musicians from New York City, New England Conservatory Faculty, Opera Composers, Postmodern Composers, Pulitzer Prize for Music Winners, Third Stream Musicians
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Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller (left) receiving the NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy in 2008, alongside A. B. Spellman

Gunther Alexander Schuller (November 22, 1925 – June 21, 2015) was an American composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian and jazz musician.


  • Biography and works 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Performance and growth 1.2
    • Career maturity 1.3
    • Accomplishments in final decades 1.4
  • Awards and recognition 2
  • Partial discography 3
    • As arranger 3.1
    • As conductor 3.2
    • As sideman 3.3
  • Books 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Biography and works

Early years

Schuller was born in New York City, the son of German parents Elsie (Bernartz) and Arthur E. Schuller, a violinist with the New York Philharmonic.[1] He studied at the Saint Thomas Choir School and became an accomplished French horn player and flute player. At age 15 he was already playing horn professionally with the American Ballet Theatre (1943) followed by an appointment as principal hornist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1943–45), and then the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York, where he stayed until 1959.[2] During his youth, he attended the Precollege Division at the Manhattan School of Music, later going on to teach at the school.[3] But, already a high school dropout because he wanted to play professionally, Schuller never obtained a degree from any institution.[4] He began his career in jazz by recording as a horn player with Miles Davis (1949–50).[5]

Performance and growth

In 1955, Schuller and jazz pianist John Lewis founded the Modern Jazz Society,[5] which gave its first concert at Town Hall, New York, the same year and later became known as the Jazz and Classical Music Society. While lecturing at Brandeis University in 1957, he coined the term "Third Stream" to describe music that combines classical and jazz techniques.[6] He became an enthusiastic advocate of this style and wrote many works according to its principles, among them Transformation (1957, for jazz ensemble),[7] Concertino (1959, for jazz quartet and orchestra),[8] Abstraction (1959, for nine instruments),[9] and Variants on a Theme of Thelonious Monk (1960, for 13 instruments) utilizing Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman.[9] In 1966, he composed the opera The Visitation.[10] He also orchestrated Scott Joplin's only known surviving opera Treemonisha for the Houston Grand Opera's premiere production of this work in 1975.[11]

Career maturity

In 1959, Schuller gave up performance to devote himself to composition, teaching and writing. He conducted internationally and studied and recorded jazz with such greats as Dizzy Gillespie and John Lewis among many others.[5] Schuller wrote over 190 original compositions in many musical genres.[12]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Schuller was president of New England Conservatory, where he founded The New England Ragtime Ensemble. During this period, he also held a variety of positions at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home in Tanglewood, serving as director of new music activities from 1965 to 1969 and as artistic director of the Tanglewood Music Center from 1970 to 1984 and creating the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music.[13]

Schuller was editor-in-chief of Jazz Masterworks Editions, and co-director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra[14] in Washington, D.C. Another effort of preservation was his editing and posthumous premiering at Lincoln Center in 1989 of Charles Mingus's immense final work, Epitaph, subsequently released on Columbia/Sony Records.[15] He was the author of two major books on the history of jazz, Early Jazz (1968)[16] and The Swing Era (1991).[17]

His students included Irwin Swack,[18] Ralph Patt,[19] John Ferritto, Eric Alexander Hewitt, Mohammed Fairouz, Oliver Knussen, Nancy Zeltzman, Riccardo Dalli Cardillo[20] and hundreds of others. See: List of music students by teacher: R to S#Gunther Schuller.

Accomplishments in final decades

From 1993 until his death, Schuller served as Artistic Director for the Northwest Bach Festival in Spokane, Washington state. Each year the festival showcased works by J.S. Bach and other composers in venues around Spokane. At the 2010 festival, Schuller conducted the Mass in B minor at St. John's Cathedral, sung by the chamber choir from Eastern Washington University, accompanied by the Spokane Symphony.[21] Other notable performances conducted at the festival include the St Matthew Passion in 2008 and Handel's Messiah in 2005.

Schuller's association with Spokane began with guest conducting the Spokane Symphony for one week in 1982.[22] He then served as Music Director from 1984–1985[23] and later regularly appeared as a guest conductor. Schuller also served as Artistic Director to the nearby Festival at Sandpoint.[24]

His modernist orchestral work Where the Word Ends, organized in four movements corresponding to those of a symphony, premiered at the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2009.[6]

In 2011 Schuller published the first volume of a two-volume autobiography, Gunther Schuller: A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty.[25]

In 2012, Schuller premiered a new arrangement, the Treemonisha suite from Joplin's opera. It was performed as part of The Rest is Noise season at London's South Bank in 2013.[26]

Schuller died on June 21, 2015 in

  • Pro Arte biography of Gunther Schuller
  • GM Recordings Gunther Schuller's recording label
  • Art of the States: Gunther Schuller Phantasmata (1989)
  • Extensive Gunther Schuller interview
  • Two interviews with Gunther Schuller by Bruce Duffie (May 8, 1981 & October 15, 1988)

External links

  1. ^ a b c Allan Kozinn (2015-06-22). "Gunther Schuller Dies at 89; Composer Synthesized Classical and Jazz". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-06-23. 
  2. ^ "BMI Mourns the Loss of Jazz and Classical Great Gunther Schuller". BMI Foundation. June 22, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  3. ^ "1950s". Manhattan School of Music. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Gunther Schuller". New Music Box. Retrieved June 24, 2015. /
  5. ^ a b c "Gunther Schuller, Pulitzer-winning jazz and classical musician, dies aged 89". The Guardian. June 21, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Loomis, George, "Boston Symphony Orchestra/Levine, Symphony Hall, Boston", ''Financial Times'' (February 10, 2009)". Financial Times. February 10, 2009. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  7. ^ Young, Logan (April 11, 2013). "'"Jazz Appreciation Month: Gunther Schuller, 'Transformation. Classicalite. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  8. ^ Giola, Ted (July 28, 2008). "Gunther Schuller: Concertino for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra". Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "John Lewis Presents Jazz Abstractions". AllMusic. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  10. ^ Berger, Joseph (July 19, 2010). "Reclaimed Jewel Whose Attraction Can Be Perilous". The New York Times. Retrieved July 21, 2010. 
  11. ^ Scherer, Barrymore Laurence (December 6, 2011). Treemonisha' as It Was Intended To Be"'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Gunther Schuller (1925–2015)". Horn Society. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  13. ^ Dyer, Richard. "From the Audio Archives: Schuller, Spectra". Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Jazz Exhibits, Jazz Events, Smithsonian Masterworks Orchestra, Jazz Listserv, Jazz Merchandise". Smithsonian Jazz. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Mingus' Magnum Opus: 'Epitaph' In Concert". NPR. July 24, 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Early Jazz". Oxford University Press. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  17. ^ "The Swing Era". Oxford University Press. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  18. ^ Dwight Winenger (September 11, 1999). "Irwin Swack Music". Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  19. ^ Peterson, Jonathon (2002). "Tuning in thirds: A new approach to playing leads to a new kind of guitar". American Lutherie: The Quarterly Journal of the Guild of American Luthiers (Tacoma, WA: The Guild of American Luthiers) 72 (Winter): 36–43.  
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Bach’s B Minor Mass a major job — — Feb. 5, 2010". Times. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  22. ^ Marty Demarest (February 8, 2002). "The Spokane Connection". Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Music Director". Spokane Symphony. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  24. ^ Michael Delucchi. "Gunther Schuller makes the music beautiful". Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  25. ^ "University of Rochester Press". 
  26. ^ "The Rest is Noise: American mavericks". Time Out. 
  27. ^ Jeremy Eichler (2015-06-22). "Gunther Schuller, 89; classical-jazz giant". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  28. ^ Matt Schudel (2015-06-22). "Gunther Schuller, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who bridged jazz and classical music, dies at 89". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  29. ^ Tsioulcas, Anastasia (June 21, 2015). "Gunther Schuller, Who Bridged Classical Music And Jazz, Dies At 89". NPR. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  30. ^ Musings: The Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller by Gunther Schuller (1986), Oxford University Press
  31. ^ a b "Former NEC President Gunther Schuller To Receive 2015 Edward MacDowell Medal". New England Conservatory. April 7, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  32. ^ "American Brass Quintet Pays Tribute to Retiring Members, Raymond Mase and David Wakefield, and Welcomes New Members, Louis Hanzlik and Eric Reed, on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 8 p.m., in Juilliard's Peter Jay Sharp Theater". The Juilliard School. September 4, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  33. ^ Cleary, David, "Review of Festival – I Hear America: Gunther Schuller at 80", New Music Connoisseur, 2005
  34. ^ a b Mathieson, Kenny (2002). Cookin' hard bop and soul jazz, 1954–65. Edinburgh: Canongate.  
  35. ^ Price, ed. by Emmett G. (2010). Encyclopedia of African American music. Oxford: Greenwood.  
  36. ^ Kirchner, Bill (2005). The Oxford companion to jazz. New York: Oxford University Press.  
  37. ^ Cooke, Mervyn; Horn, David (2002). The Cambridge companion to jazz (1. publ. ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.  
  38. ^ Bogdanov, Vladimir (2002). All music guide to jazz : the definitive guide to jazz music (4. ed.). San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books [u.a.]  
  39. ^ Babbitt, Gunther Schuller ; foreword by Milton (1999). Musings : the musical worlds of Gunther Schuller : a collection of his writings (1st Da Capo Press ed.). New York: Da Capo Press.  
  40. ^ Carlos do Nascimento Silva, Luiz (2000). Put your dreams away : a Frank Sinatra discography (1. publ. ed.). Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Greenwood Press.  
  41. ^ Lambert, Philip (2013). Alec Wilder. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 63.  
  42. ^ Silver, Horace (2006). Let's get to the nitty gritty : the autobiography of Horace Silver. Berkeley, Calif. [u.a.]: Univ. of California Press. p. 211.  
  43. ^ Summers, Claude (2004). The queer encyclopedia of music, dance & musical theater (1st ed.). San Francisco: Cleis Press. pp. 165–166.  
  44. ^ a b c d e f g "Books by Gunther Schuller". Goodreads. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 


  • Musings: The Musical Worlds of Guther Schuller. Oxford University Press. 1986.[44]
  • Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development. Oxford University Press. 1968. New printing 1986.[44]
  • The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930–1945. Oxford University Press. 1991.[44]
  • Gunther Schuller: A Bio-Bibliography Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987.[44]
  • The Compleat Conductor. Oxford University Press, 1998.[44]
  • Horn Technique. Oxford University Press, 1962. New Printing 1992.[44]
  • Gunther Schuller: A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty. University of Rochester Press, 2011.[44]


With John Lewis

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Miles Davis

With Johnny Mathis[43]

With Gigi Gryce[34][42]

With Mitch Miller[41]

With Frank Sinatra[40]

As sideman

With Charles Mingus

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Gerard Schwarz (cornet) and the Columbia Chamber Ensemble

  • Exposure (Atlantic, 1960)

With The Modern Jazz Quartet[38][39]

On Birth of the Third Stream[36][37]

As conductor

With John Lewis[34][35]

As arranger

Partial discography

Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance:

  • Gunther Schuller (notes writer) for Footlifters performed by Gunther Schuller (1976)

Grammy Award for Best Album Notes:

Schuller was the recipient of many awards, including the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for his composition written for the Louisville Orchestra, Of Reminiscences and Reflections, the MacArthur Foundation "genius" award (1991),[29] 1st place in the Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards (1987), the William Schuman Award (1988), given by Columbia University for "lifetime achievement in American music composition",[1][30] and ten honorary degrees. He received the Ditson Conductor's Award in 1970.[31] In 1993, Down Beat magazine honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to jazz; the BMI Foundation bestowed another Lifetime Achievement Award on him the following year.[32] In 2005, a festival of Schuller's music directed by Bruce Brubaker involved the Boston Symphony, Harvard University, and New England Conservatory.[33] Mr. Schuller was awarded a lifetime achievement medal from the MacDowell Colony in 2015.[31] “As a composer and teacher,” the composer Augusta Read Thomas, the chairwoman of the selection committee for the MacDowell award, said at the time, “he has inspired generations of students, setting an example of discovery and experimentation.”[1]

Awards and recognition

His sons survive him, as does his brother Edgar. [28][27]

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