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Elie Siegmeister

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Elie Siegmeister


Elie Siegmeister (15 January 1909, New York City – 10 March 1991, Manhasset, New York) was an American composer, educator and author.

Siegmeister studied the piano as a young boy, enrolled at Columbia University at the age of 16 to study composition with Seth Bingham, and later studied counterpoint privately with Wallingford Riegger. From 1927-1932, Siegmeister lived in Paris and studied with Nadia Boulanger.

He returned to the United States in 1932, teaching in several schools and studying conducting at the Juilliard School of Music. In 1939, he formed a vocal group which performed authentic American folk songs. He toured with this group, The American Ballad Singers, for several years. He was also associated with Hofstra University as professor of music (1949-1965), composer-in-residence (1966-1976), and professor emeritus (1976-1991). He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978.

His varied musical output showed his concern with the development of an authentic American musical vocabulary. Jazz, blues and folk melodies and rhythms are frequent themes in his many song cycles, his nine operas, his eight symphonies, and his many choral, chamber, and solo works. His 37 orchestral works have been performed by leading orchestras throughout the world under such conductors as Arturo Toscanini, Leopold Stokowski, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Lorin Maazel, and Sergiu Comissiona. He also composed for Hollywood (notably, the film score of They Came to Cordura, starring Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth, 1959) and Broadway (Sing Out, Sweet Land, 1944, book by Walter Kerr).

Siegmeister wrote a number of important books on music, among them Treasury of American Song, The Music Lover's Handbook, and the two-volume Harmony and Melody which was widely adopted by college and conservatory curricula. In 1960, Siegmeister also recorded and released an instructional album of music, Invitation to Music, on Folkways Records, on which he discusses the fundamentals of music.

Siegmeister's works for band include several original compositions and numerous arrangements of folk songs. His best known original band works are Prairie Legend and Wilderness Road, and these were later transcribed for orchestra.

Works for Winds