At the age of 25, Samuel Adler wrote the first of his six symphonies. It was a harbinger of what was to become a highly distinguished five-decade career that has produced a prodigious body of work encompassing more than 400 published compositions, including five operas and three books.
The internationally acclaimed composer and author will be Appleton Nov. 15-20 to participate in a guest residency in the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music that will include a pair of concerts featuring some of his work.
In addition to working with students, as part of his residency Adler will discuss his prolific 50-year career in a free public address Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. in Harper Hall of the Music-Drama Center.
A New Music Concert Friday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. in Harper Hall will feature student soloists and ensembles as well as the five-member Lawrence Brass performing several Adler compositions, including 1997’s “Brahmsiana” and 1999’s “Be Not Afraid: The Isle is Full of Noises.”
Adler will serve as guest conductor of the Lawrence Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band in a concert Saturday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Both the Friday and Saturday concerts are free and open to the public.
Highlighting Saturday’s evening program will be performances of Adler’s “To Celebrate a Miracle” featuring Hannukah selections and “Pygamalion,” a recent and energetic work composed for the Southern Methodist University Wind Ensemble.
“Many musicians have lengthy and impressive resumés, but the breadth, depth and variety of Samuel Adler’s seems peerless to me,” said Andrew Mast, assistant professor of music and Lawrence’s director of bands. “Not only is the volume of his work, with more than 400 published compositions, staggering, but he’s written for virtually every conceivable musical medium. And he’s still composing at 77 years of age.
“To have someone of Adler’s experience, accomplishments and stature come to Lawrence will be invigorating for the entire campus,” Mast added. “And for all he’s accomplished, he has been steadfast in his desire to work with as many students as possible while he’s here, which clearly demonstrates his commitment to teaching and passing his knowledge on to the next generation.”
Born in Germany, Adler immigrated to the United States when he was 11 to escape the Nazi regime. He studied at Boston University and Harvard University and worked with famed American composer Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. He wrote the first of his six symphonies four years before joining the faculty of the University of North Texas as a professor of composition in 1957.
Adler later spent 29 years teaching at Eastman School of Music, serving as chair of the composition department there from 1974 unitil his retirement in 1995. Since 1997, Adler has been a member of the composition faculty at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.
During his career, Adler has given master classes and workshops at more than 300 universities around the world and has taught at virtually every major music festival in this country and abroad.
His compositions have been commissioned by the National Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the American Brass Quintet, the Berlin-Bochum Brass Ensemble and the American String Quartet, among others, and his works have been performed by many of the finest orchestras in the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Mannheim Nationaltheater Orchestra.
Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001, Adler’s life work has been widely recognized with numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, “Composer of the Year” honors by the American Guild of Organists and election to the Chilean Academy of Fine Arts for “his outstanding contribution to the world of music as a composer.”
While in the Army in the early 1950s, Adler founded and conducted the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra’s psychological and musical impact on European culture under his direction earned Adler the army’s Medal of Honor.
In addition to his music, Adler is the author of the books “Choral Conducting” (1971), “Sight Singing” (1977) and “The Study of Orchestration” (1982).