Over the past month, Clef Notes has been looking at American music and composers. To kick off our final week, let’s talk about William Schuman (1910–1992) – not to be confused with Robert Schumann!
William Schuman was first introduced to music at a young age, however he was only acquainted with jazz and popular music. It wasn’t until he heard Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic that he realized his true passion was classical music and began to devote his time to composition. He studied at both Juilliard and Columbia, one of his teachers being the prominent American composer Roy Harris.
One of my favorite Schuman works happens to take inspiration from the 18th-century American composer William Billings. The piece is called New England Triptych (1956) and certainly has an American flavor.
Schuman is known for being the first to win a Pulitzer Prize in music in 1943 for his A Free Song. Besides composing, he also had many additional career accomplishments including serving as the director of publications at G. Schirmer, Inc., serving as the president of Juilliard where he created the famous Juilliard Quartet, and serving as the president of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He even received the National Medal of the Arts in 1987!
Next time, we’ll talk about a composer you’ve heard if you’re a fan of Spider Man! Check back!