Distinguished American composer Gunther Schuller received the Library of Congress Living Legend Award during the Jupiter String Quartet Concert on Dec. 16 in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Thomas Jefferson Building.
Widely regarded as an important figure of 20th century music, Schuller is a leader in both classical and jazz traditions. While working simultaneously as a classical horn player in major symphony orchestras and as a jazz performer with Miles Davis, he began composing in each style, sometimes blending the two in a revolutionary direction. As a conductor, he began to concentrate on leading contemporary composers such as Milton Babbitt and Elliott Carter, creating a market for modern concert works.
For more than 20 years, Schuller taught at Tanglewood Music Center, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Academy for Advanced Musical Study. He served as president of the New England Conservatory for a decade and, among other teaching positions, was on the faculty of Yale University during the 1960s. In 1975 he started his publishing and recording enterprises (later acquired by G. Schirmer Inc.) featuring early music and avant-garde works, as well as compositions by Duke Ellington. Among his acclaimed writings, "Early Jazz: Its Roots and Development" (1968) was one of the first works to treat jazz analytically.
A 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner in music, Schuller has been the recipient of three Library of Congress commissions. In 1961 the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation commissioned his "Music for Brass Quintet," followed by the Koussevitzky Foundation's commission for his "Double Bass Concerto" (1962). His "Duologue" (1983) for violin and piano is a McKim Fund commission.
Established during the Library of Congress Bicentennial in 2000, the Living Legend Award is bestowed on public figures whose achievements have enriched American culture. Among the recipients are John Kenneth Galbraith, Stephen Jay Gould, Marian Wright Edelman, Alan Lomax, Gordon Parks, Bob Hope, Hank Aaron, Julia Child, Colin Powell and I.M. Pei. Musicians honored have included Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Mickey Hart, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Leontyne Price, Tito Puente, Pete Seeger, Bobby Short, Ralph Stanley and Isaac Stern.
For more information about the Library's Living Legend award, visit the Web site at www.loc.gov/about/awards/legends/.