20 September 2012

Composer Dominick Argento Donates $1.5 Million to Endow Professorship at the Eastman School of Music

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Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Dominick Argento has made a commitment to endow a professorship at the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music to the value of $1.5 million, it was announced today. Argento, who turns 85 in October, received his Ph.D. in composition from Eastman in 1958.

“Dominick Argento is one of Eastman’s most illustrious and admired graduates. We are in awe of his artistic achievements and grateful for his exceptional generosity and commitment,” said Douglas Lowry, dean of the Eastman School of Music. 

Born in York, Pennsylvania, in 1927, Argento is roundly considered one of the preeminent American opera composers of the second-half of the twentieth century, with fourteen operas to his credit, in addition to major song cycles, orchestral works and numerous large- and small-scale choral pieces. Over the course of his career, he has been commissioned by companies that include New York City Opera, Minnesota Opera, Washington Opera and the Baltimore and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras, and has penned song cycles for the likes of Frederica von Stade, Janet Baker, and Håkan Hagegård. 

“In addition to providing me with an extraordinary musical education, Eastman changed my life in much more significant ways," Argento said in a press release. "More than just imparting to me particular compositional techniques, what I acquired from the School was a sense of confidence, instilled by Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers and Alan Hovhaness. I was made a teaching fellow, and even that was character-building work. Eastman changed my life." 

Argento's first opera, The Boor (1957), was written while he attended Eastman School of Music. His subsequent operas include Postcard from Morocco (1971); The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe (1976); Miss Havisham’s Fire (1979); The Dream of Valentino (1994); and The Aspern Papers (1988). In April 2013, the latter work will be presented in a new production by Dallas Opera, which  presented the world premiere of Argento's adaptation of Henry James's novella twenty-five years ago. 

Argento was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1979, and, in 1993, he was awarded the George Peabody Medal. He has also been the recipient of Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships, the OPERA America Award for Achievement, Chorus America’s Founder’s Award, as well as several honorary doctorates. Argento's 1975 song cycle From the Diary of Virginia Woolf received that year's Pulitzer Prize for Music, and a recording of Argento's song cycle Casa Guidi featuring Frederica von Stade and the Minnesota Orchestra won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Classical Composition. spacer 

More information can be found at the Eastman School of Music and the OPERA NEWS Archives (here and here). 

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