(b Philadelphia, PA, July 19, 1843; d Philadelphia, PA, 1918). American pianist, singer, educator, and composer. He studied music with his father Thomas à Becket Sr. (b 17 March 1808; d 6 Jan 1890) and in Philadelphia public schools. The father, a music teacher, actor and composer, wrote Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean. In 1855 Thomas à Becket Jr. performed at the Walnut Street Theatre in a work written by his father. He developed into one of the finest, most sought after accompanists in the city, joining with leading artists and singing groups. Member and president of the Mendelssohn Club, he sang in a series of 35 light operas produced at the Amateur Drawing Room (1868–72) and accompanied the Orpheus Club (1877–98). An important educator, from 1873 until he died à Becket taught and played the organ at Girard College, a residential school for orphaned boys. À Becket became a member of a group of professional musicians who evaluated music teaching methods in the Philadelphia Public Schools. À Becket family archives at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts include diaries (...
Martha Furman Schleifer
Gregory E. Smith
revised by Barry Kernfeld
[Michael Christian Joseph, Jr.]
(bNew York, July 2, 1942). American pianist, arranger, and composer. His father was a guitarist and bandleader. Abene performed and recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival in Marshall Brown’s International Youth Band (1958) and studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music (1959–61), though he is primarily self-taught. After working with Clark Terry, Jimmy Nottingham, and others at the Cork ’n Bib on Long Island (1960) he played piano with Don Ellis (1960–61), Maynard Ferguson (1961–5), for whom he also wrote arrangements, Buddy Rich, Harry Edison, and Georgie Auld (in Las Vegas, 1963). From the mid-1960s he performed regularly in New York at the Half Note (with the quintets led by Al Cohn and Zoot Sims and by Bill Berry and Richie Kamuca, 1965–7), Bradley’s (1972–5), Sweet Basil (1978), and Freddy’s (with the singer Barbara Rankin, ...
(b Port Chester, NY, Dec 16, 1944). American jazz guitarist, composer, and bandleader. He grew up in Greenwich, CT, and began playing guitar at the age of 14. He was primarily self taught until he studied at the Berklee College of Music (1962–6) and with Jack Petersen. Abercrombie joined Johnny Hammond’s touring band after the blues organist had spotted him performing with other Berklee students at Paul’s Mall in Boston. After studying briefly at the University of North Texas, in 1969 he moved to New York where he performed and recorded in Billy Cobham’s jazz-rock band Dreams (1970), joined Chico Hamilton’s group, and recorded with Gato Barbieri (1971), Barry Miles (1972), and Gil Evans (1974). Abercrombie attracted wider attention performing with Cobham’s fusion band Spectrum from 1974. He also toured with Jack DeJohnette and recorded his debut album, ...
[Abrams, Richard Louis ]
(b Chicago, IL, Sept 19, 1930). American pianist, composer, and administrator. After receiving private piano lessons, he studied at the Chicago Musical College and taught himself the system of composition devised by Joseph Schillinger. He began to work professionally in 1948 and performed regularly at the Cotton Club in Chicago during the 1950s, accompanying visiting musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, and Max Roach. After composing and arranging for the Walter “King” Fleming band in the mid-1950s, Abrams joined the hard bop ensemble MJT+3 and made his recording debut on the group’s album DADDY-O PRESENTS MJT+3 (1957, VJ 1013). Beginning in 1961 Abrams led the Experimental Band, a composer-centered rehearsal ensemble whose members included the double bass player Donald Rafael Garrett, Jack DeJohnette, Roscoe Mitchell, and the reed player Joseph Jarman. He subsequently co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in 1965...
(b Havana, Cuba, Feb 26, 1942). Cuban-American guitarist, composer, arranger, and educator; immigrated to the United States and naturalized in 1975. He studied piano and composition at the Conservatorio Orbón in Havana, and guitar under Héctor García and Julian Bream. Abril participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion (1961) and was consequently incarcerated for twenty-two months in Cuba. Returning to the United States, he established a performing and recording career as a classical guitarist, whose arrangements for the instrument have been published worldwide. He holds the PhD degree in music theory from Florida State University.
A series of medical issues with his hands during the 1980s subsequently redirected his focus to composition. Rejecting atonality and traditional developmental procedures in his early works, Abril cultivated a compositional style characterized by tonal and often polytonal harmony and linear writing. Although not a folklorist, he shows an affinity for Cuban musical culture, particularly in the rhythmic component. His compositions include ...
(b Santiago, 1863; d Santiago, May 29, 1911). Chilean composer. He studied theory and singing at the National Conservatory, and the organ and composition privately. He was organist at Santiago Cathedral, and occasionally conducted zarzuelas. In 1902 he composed the first act of his opera-ballet Caupolicán; based on the 16th-century poem La araucana by Alonso de Ercilla, the libretto is by Pedro Antonio Pérez and Adolfo Urzúa Rozas. The première of Act 1 took place at the Teatro Municipal, Santiago, in June 1902. Acevedo then received an award that enabled him to study in Milan, where he composed the last two acts of Caupolicán. The complete work, comprising three acts and 11 scenes, was given its first performance at the Teatro Municipal, Santiago, on 8 December 1942, more than 30 years after the composer’s death. Acevedo also composed masses and other religious works, but the public, devoted to Italian opera at that time, never accepted his music....
Enrique Cordero Rodríguez
(b San José, Aug 24, 1943). Costa Rican composer, ethnomusicologist and baritone. He obtained a teaching diploma and the BA at the University of Costa Rica Conservatory, with singing as his special subject. During 1975–6 he lived in Paris, where he studied singing at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Musique, Gregorian chant and choral conducting at the Catholic University and ethnomusicology at the Sorbonne. He taught at the Escuela de Artes Musicales of the University of Costa Rica (1976–90; director of the Escuela, 1983–7; dean of the fine arts faculty of the university, 1987–91). In 1994, with the painter Ronald Mills, he co-founded the Centro de Investigaciones y Documentación de Musica y de Artes Plásticas, researching the traditional music of Guanacaste and Limón provinces and of the Costa Rican indigenous people, conducting field studies in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico, making recordings, publishing books and articles, and holding lectures and seminars....
R. Allen Lott
(b Warsaw, Poland, Nov 24, 1892; d New York, NY, May 12, 1948). American pianist and composer of Polish birth and Lithuanian descent, brother of Joseph Achron. Having studied the piano with Anna Esipova, composition with Anatol Liadov, and orchestration with Maximilian Shteynberg at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, he moved to the United States in 1922 and became an American citizen six years later. Until 1933 he was accompanist to Jascha Heifetz, with whom he had first performed in Russia in 1909. Achron then began a successful solo career and gave joint recitals occasionally with his brother Joseph and with his wife, Lea Karina, a Finnish-born mezzo-soprano. His works include two piano concertos (1937, 1942), the first given its premiere by the composer with the New York PO (9 Dec 1937); Suite grotesque (1941), first performed by the St Louis SO (...
(b Lozdzieje, Poland [now Lazdijai, Lithuania], May 13, 1886; d Hollywood, CA, April 29, 1943). American violinist and composer of Lithuanian birth. He was the brother of the pianist and composer Isidor Achron. He began the study of the violin with his father at the age of five, and first performed in public three years later in Warsaw. At the St Petersburg Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1904, he studied the violin with Auer and composition with Lyadov. In 1913 he went to Russia, becoming head of the violin and chamber music departments at the Kharkiv Conservatory, and served in the Russian Army between 1916 and 1918. In the years after World War I he toured extensively as a concert artist in Europe, the Near East and Russia. He was appointed head of the violin masterclass and chamber music department at the Leningrad Artists' Union. In 1925...
Thomas Henry Porter
(b Spring Hill, PA, Jan 21, 1887; d Whittier, CA, July 3, 1960). American gospel composer and editor, brother of Bentley DeForest Ackley. He studied harmony and composition in New York and London, and later became an accomplished cellist. Ackley was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in 1914...
(b Spring Hill, PA, Sept 27, 1872; d Winona Lake, IN, Sept 3, 1958). American gospel music composer and editor, brother of Alfred H(enry) Ackley. He learned to play several instruments, including melodeon, piano, reed organ, alto horn, cornet, piccolo, and clarinet. He studied shorthand and typing and then worked as a stenographer in New York and Philadelphia. Several of his secular songs were published in the 1890s. From 1908 to 1915 Ackley was pianist and private secretary to the evangelist Billy Sunday, and during this period he began to compose gospel songs. In 1910 he and Homer A. Rodeheaver founded the Rodeheaver–Ackley publishing company in Chicago, which became the Rodeheaver Co. the following year. He worked for the firm as a composer and editor until his death; with his brother and Charles H. Gabriel, he provided many of the firm’s copyrighted publications. More than 2000 of Ackley’s gospel songs were published, including “If your Heart Keeps Right” (...
(b Danlí, 1872; d Tegucigalpa, 1947). Honduran composer and concert bandleader. He studied at the Honduran National Conservatory and was active as an organist in Guatemala City and in Danlí. Trained also as a civil engineer, he invented an organ of bamboo pipes he named the orquestrofono. In 1895 he formed a municipal band and orchestra in Danlí, from whose success he was promoted to supervise all military bands, the salient performance ensembles of classical music at the time. Under his leadership, the band of the Supremos Poderes achieved regional prominence. His output of polkas, waltzes, mazurkas and marches all scored for concert band reflects the musical environment of the Honduran middle class in the first decades of the 20th century. Two of his major compositions received international exposure: La suita tropical in Seville, Spain; and Los funerales de un conejito, which was performed by the US Service Orchestra in Washington, DC, in ...
Alicia Valdés Cantero
(b Camagüey" country="Cuba, Sept 24, 1873; d Madrid, October 20, 1957). Cuban composer resident in Spain. After moving to Spain with her family at the age of nine, she began her musical training under Joaquín Zuazagoitia in Santiago de Compostela, continuing at the Real Conservatorio, Madrid, where she studied piano (receiving first prize in 1888), harmony, composition, ensemble playing and organ. Later, in Paris, she was a member of Louis(-Joseph) Diémer’s piano class and Jules Massenet’s instrumentation and composition classes; she also studied with Vincent d’ Indy. Her music was performed in Paris, and in Spain she gave recitals and took part in chamber concerts with Pablo Casals. Although resident in Europe, she nevertheless maintained professional and personal links with Cuba and several of her works were performed there, notably by the Havana SO and Havana PO, including, in 1933, the Serenata española, La peregrinación de Childe Harold...
( b Sumatra, Nov 5, 1917; d New York, July 4, 1983). American cellist and composer . He spent the first six years of his life in Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), where his father, Tassilo Adam, worked as an ethnologist; after the family returned to Europe he studied at the Salzburg Mozarteum. In 1929 the family moved to New York, where Adam studied the cello with E. Stoffnegen, D.C. Dounis and (from 1938 to 1940) Feuermann; he also studied conducting with Barzin and composition with Blatt, and was a member of the National Orchestral Association, a training group for young instrumentalists (1935–40). From 1940 to 1943 he was principal cellist of the Minneapolis SO. After serving in the US Air Force during World War II, he studied composition in New York with Wolpe. In 1948 he formed the New Music Quartet, with which he performed until ...
Kendra Preston Leonard
(b Philadelphia, PA, Aug 1, 1962). American composer and librettist. He attended New York University, where he won the Paulette Goddard Remarque award for undergraduate playwriting, and the Catholic University of America, from which he received a Bachelor of Music degree in composition in 1990 and was the winner of the Theodore Presser award for outstanding undergraduate composition. He has taught composition at New York University, City University of New York, and American Lyric Theater. Adamo first came to widespread public attention with the première of his opera Little Women (1998), for which he also wrote the libretto, based on the Louisa May Alcott novel. The international success of Little Women led to his appointment as composer-in-residence at the New York City Opera from 2001 through 2006, where he led the company’s VOX: Showcasing American Composers programme; and to his residency as Master Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in 2003. Adamo’s music, which embraces a wide variety of 20th- and 21st-century techniques and influences ranging from music-theatre to serialism, has garnered commissions for four full-length operas from the companies of San Francisco, Dallas, and Houston, as well as orchestral and chamber works for Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra, Sir James Galway, baritone Thomas Hampson, and the chamber choir Chanticleer. He has served as stage director for a number of his own works, including productions of ...
(b St Thomas, VI, Nov 4, 1889; d St Thomas, VI, Nov 24, 1987). American bandmaster, composer and educator. He taught himself to play the flute and piccolo, took correspondence courses from several universities, and received the BMus degree from the University Extension Conservatory of Music, Chicago. In 1910 he formed Adams’ Juvenile Band, which was incorporated into the US Navy when it assumed the administrative duties of the US Virgin Islands in 1917. He was editor of the band department of Jacobs’ Band Monthly (1913–17), the Virgin Islands correspondent for the Associated Press, and the author of articles for various music journals, newspapers and magazines. From 1918 to 1931 he supervised the music programme in the Virgin Islands public schools, modelling it after similar programmes on the mainland. After retiring from the navy in 1947 he produced musical radio programmes featuring classical music from his own substantial record collection for 16 years. Although many of his compositions and arrangements for band were destroyed by fire in ...
(b Worcester, MA, Feb 15, 1947). American composer and conductor. Known particularly for his operatic works on contemporary subjects, he is considered one of the most frequently performed living composers of concert music.
He studied the clarinet with his father and with Felix Viscuglia, clarinettist with the Boston SO. At the age of ten he began theory and composition lessons, and at 14 he had his first piece performed by the community orchestra with whom he practised conducting. He also performed with the orchestra alongside his father, often appearing before an audience of mentally-handicapped patients at the New Hampshire State Hospital. As a student at Harvard University (1965–71, MA 1972) he studied composition with Leon Kirchner, Earl Kim, Roger Sessions, Harold Shapero and David Del Tredici. During this period he performed occasionally as a clarinettist with the Boston SO.
After moving to San Francisco in 1971...
(b Meridian, MS, Jan 23, 1953). American composer. Growing up in the American South and on the Northeastern seaboard, Adams began his musical career with piano and trumpet lessons, rock drumming, and songwriting in his teens. However, it was the music of Frank Zappa that shifted his focus to contemporary classical music, above all the works of Cage, Feldman, and Varèse. Adams studied composition with Leonard Stein and James Tenney at the California Institute of the Arts (BFA 1973). Drawn to environmentalism during his music studies in overdeveloped Southern California, Adams traveled to Alaska in 1975 to campaign for the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. He settled there in 1978 to serve as executive director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, but soon thereafter established himself as the composer most strongly associated with Alaska, paying tribute in his compositions almost exclusively to his chosen environment. In the 1980s and 1990s Adams was also active as a performer: as timpanist and principal percussionist of the Fairbanks SO and the Arctic Chamber Orchestra (...
(b Mansfield, OH, Aug 14, 1924). American lyricist and writer. Adams began his career as a writer after earning degrees from Ohio State University and Columbia University. He worked initially as a journalist, while also writing lyrics for summer camp productions and night club revues. In 1949, he met Charles Strouse, and over the next decade the two created songs and specialty material for nightclub and television performers. Their first published notices came for several minor productions in the mid-1950s. Adams and Strouse broke through on Broadway in 1960 with Bye Bye Birdie, which won the Tony for Best Musical. Other notable shows by this team were Golden Boy and Applause (1970 Tony Award for Best Musical), which is perhaps their best work together. The pair had no successes together after 1970, save for “Those Were the Days,” the theme song for the hit television show All in the Family...
(b Cleveland, Dec 20, 1932). American composer. He attended Oberlin College (BMEd 1955), California State University, Long Beach (MA 1967) and Ohio State University (PhD 1973), and studied privately with Herbert Elwell, Robert Starer, Vittorio Giannini, Leon Dallin, Edward Mattila and Marcel Dick. He has taught at Stillman College (1963–4), Florida A&M University (1968–9) and the University of Kansas (1969–78). His honours include composition awards from the National Association of Negro Women (1963) and the Christian Arts Annual National Competition for Choral Music (1979), fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation (1979) and Yaddo (1980, 1984), and commissions from the Center for Black Music Research, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Ohio Chamber Orchestra.
Adams writes in a lyrical style that fuses elements of jazz and black folksong with 20th-century compositional techniques. A few of his works, including ...