June 22, 2015

American composer, author, administrator and thought leader Gunther Schuller, dies at age 89

American composer, author, administrator and thought leader Gunther Schuller, dies at age 89

Pulitzer Prize winner, MacArthur “Genius” award recipient and two-time Grammy award winner, Gunther Schuller, died on Sunday. The musical icon was the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Kulas Visiting Artist this year and in May, Mr. Schuller delivered the Commencement Address to the graduating class of 2015. During the ceremony he conducted a CIM ensemble in the playing of one of his last commissioned pieces, written specially for the occasion. Mr. Schuller was 89.

Mr. Schuller had a successful and often star-studded career in music. He worked with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, won Grammy awards in classical music categories and received a Pulitzer Prize for composition. When Mr. Schuller hosted his first master class at CIM, President Joel Smirnoff introduced him as “one of the greatest musicians our country has produced.”

As this year’s Kulas Visiting Artist, CIM had the fortune of receiving multiple visits from Mr. Schuller, who hosted master classes with horn students, dazzled composition students with stories of watching Duke Ellington play the piano in a jazz club after hours, and worked alongside master guest conductor Kimbo Ishii as he led the CIM Orchestra in playing Mr. Schuller’s “Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (1959)” during its April concert.  The editors of CIM’s Notes magazine had the pleasure of following Mr. Schuller throughout his visits at CIM, and captured some of his final insights, stories and advice in the latest issue.

Mr. Schuller gave his last public remarks on CIM’s Kulas Hall stage in May to the new graduates. He emphasized the importance of having integrity with "a minimum of compromise." Mr. Schuller also spoke of the necessity of focusing on "the 'us' and the 'we' rather than the 'me.'"

He closed with the words of Gloria Steinem, who stated in a 1987 Commencement Address of her own, “This is the last period of time that will seem lengthy to you and too protected. But from now on, time will pass without artificial academic measure. Time will go by like the wind, and then time is suddenly gone.”

Mr. Schuller’s obituary is available in the New York Times

Watch Gunther Schuller’s 2015 Commencement Address.