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Robert Washburn

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Robert B. Washburn

Biography

Robert B. Washburn (11 July 1928, Bouckville, N.Y. - 13 November 2013, Ogdensburg, N.Y.) was an American composer and educator.

Dr. Washburn was dean and professor emeritus and senior fellow in music at the Crane School of Music of the State University of New York at Potsdam. After completing his undergraduate studies at Potsdam he was awarded a Danforth Foundation Fellowship to complete a Ph.D. in composition at the Eastman School of Music where he worked with Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers and Alan Hovhaness. Later studies included a summer at the Aspen Music School where he studied with Darius Milhaud, and a season in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. He also participated in seminars at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Oxford in England.

Washburn received a Ford Foundation Grant which permitted him to devote a year to composition. He also received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the ALCOA Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Juilliard Repertory Project, and Meet the Composer. He was a fellow of the MacDowell Colony and held a scholarship at the Bennington Composers Conference. Subsequently he was awarded a SUNY Foundation Summer Fellowship to compose Symphony for Band. Other honors have included the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Potsdam College Alumni Association's Minerva Award, and a SUNY Faculty Exchange Scholar appointment. His military service in the USAF included duty as chief arranger for the Air Force Band of the West and the Air Force Sinfonietta, and he spent a year as a member of the San Antonio Symphony.

Since 1961, Washburn was the recipient of annual awards from ASCAP. He has received a number of commissions for works which have been heard at such events as the American Music Festival of the Eastman School, the American Music Festival of the National Gallery, the Indiana State University Contemporary Music Festival, the Spring Festival of the Arts at SUNY Potsdam, the Inter-American Symposium of the University of Texas, the San Jose Festival, Expo '67 in Montreal, the Farnham Festival in England, and the St. Moritz Festival in Switzerland. His works have appeared on programs in Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Symphony Hall in Boston, the Philadelphia Academy of Music, and at the White House, where he was the guest of Mrs. John Kennedy, and the Royal Cultural Center in Amman, Jordan, where he was the guest of Queen Noor. In 1980 he was commissioned to compose music for the opening ceremonies of the Lake Placid Winter Olympics which were broadcast over ABC, CBC and BBC television.

More than 150 of Washburn’s compositions have been published, and he wrote articles for many scholarly publications. He served on the editorial board of the Music Educators Journal, on the Advisory Committee of the N.Y. State School Music Association, and as music consultant for the N.Y. State Department of Education, the U.S. Office of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In addition to his activities as composer/conductor and teacher, Washburn is a specialist in the musics of Africa and Asia and has made a number of field study trips to those areas, including a sabbatical leave spent in North Africa and the Middle East, a Fulbright Senior Fellowship in Cairo, Egypt, and an African Cross-Cultural Study Program in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Ethiopia and Tanzania. He also spent a month in Ghana studying the music of the country under a federal grant. He participated in seminars in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University and York University in England. He authored the portion of a college music text dealing with non-Western music under contract with Schirmer Books.


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