Gunther Schuller

Pulitzer Prize winner Gunther Schuller began his career at age 16 when his French horn playing was heard in the American radio premiere of Shostakovich’s then brand-new “Leningrad” Symphony. Soon after he joined the American Ballet Theater Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and performed 14 seasons in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. In the 1950s he turned his attention to composing and began combining jazz and traditional composition in new ways, and recorded with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

Since then, Schuller has composed more than 160 original works, with commissions by Baltimore Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. His output includes dozens of orchestral works, 20-plus concertos for soloist(s) and orchestra, over 70 chamber works, and two operas.

He also enjoyed an illustrious teaching career spanning decades, serving on the faculties of Manhattan School of Music and Yale University, and later as president of the New England Conservatory of Music and artistic director of the Tanglewood Berkshire Music Center. He was named a Library of Congress Living Legend in 2005 and is the recipient of 10 honorary degrees and numerous awards including a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award.

Today, Schuller travels the world as a conductor, leading major ensembles from New Zealand to St. Louis. He serves as artistic director of the Bach Festival, in Spokane, Washington, a position he has held since 1993.

Widely published, he has written dozens of essays and four books, including a volume on the art of conducting, entitled The Compleat Conductor.

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All Music Guide says, “It seems safe to say that at this stage in his life and career, Gunther Schuller represents, for countless musicians, concertgoers, and record buyers around the world, American music making at its best, almost as much as Leonard Bernstein did a half century earlier. He is composer, conductor, horn player, jazz performer, writer, administrator, publisher, and teacher, all wrapped up into one tidy bundle of seemingly endless energy.”