My composerly family tree

June 18, 2008


I was daydreaming about my family tree in terms of what composers I have studied with and who they studied with. Maybe someday when I have lots of time on my hands, I’ll draw an actual tree. Until then:

Through Les Thimmig, I am connected to his teacher, Mel Powell, who studied with Paul Hindemith.

Through William Thomas McKinley, I am connected to one of his teachers, Aaron Copland.

Through Robert Ceeley, I am connected to one of his teachers, Darius Milhaud.

Through Donald Martino, I am connected to one of his teachers, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Through Gunther Schuller — well he is connected to lots of people, and he helped me more than anyone in my career as a composer.

Through Randall Thompson, I am connected to Edward Burlingame Hill, whose teacher was John Knowles Paine.

Through John Harbison, I am connected to one of this teachers, Walter Piston.

Through Earl Kim and Leon Kirchner, I am connected to their teachers, Ernst Bloch, Roger Sessions, and Arnold Schoenberg.

Looming large over all these composers listed above, is Igor Stravinsky, (who never taught) my biggest influence, and an influence on everyone else as well. Schoenberg is also in this category, but he influenced me less. Leon Kirchner told me that Stravinsky urged him to be a film composer and stay out of academia. Leon turned around and said the same thing to me. Neither one of us took our teacher’s advice.

I am unaware of what comes from whom in my education or my musical language. It’s all smushed together into me.

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