MacArthur Fellows Program

Gunther Schuller

Composer, Conductor, and Jazz Historian | Class of 1991

Title
Composer, Conductor, and Jazz Historian
Location
Newton Center, Massachusetts
Age
66 at time of award
Deceased
June 21, 2015

Gunther Schuller is a composer, a conductor, a scholar, a jazz historian, a music publisher, and a record producer.

Schuller has written more than 160 original compositions for a variety of media—vocal, instrumental, ensemble, solo, orchestral, chamber music, opera, ballet, and film.  He has reconstructed the works of other composers, notably those of Scott Joplin, Charlie Mingus, and Kurt Weill.  Schuller also developed the concept of the Third Stream, a fusion of jazz and traditional classical music.

Schuller’s books include Early Jazz: Its Roots and Developments (1971), The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz 1930-1945 (1989), Musings (1989), and The Compleat Conductor (1996).  His writings are issued in the collection, Musings: The Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller (1999).  He held professorships at the Manhattan School of Music, Yale University, and the New England Conservatory of Music, where he served as president (1967-1977).  Schuller was also the artistic director for the Tanglewood Berkshire Music Center and the Festival at Sandpoint, Idaho.  He co-directs the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and is music director of the Spokane Bach Festival.

Schuller studied flute, horn and music theory.  He advanced rapidly, joining the Cincinnati Symphony as principal horn at age 17, and the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera at age 19.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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