William Bergsma

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Biography

William Bergsma was a major contributor to the American music scene during his lifetime. His legacy and influence remain a vital force these many years after his death.

Bergsma composed works for symphony orchestra, opera, chamber ensembles, solo instruments and choral groups, most of which has been recorded and continues to be available. He received numerous honors and awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation. In 1992, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

In the New Grove Dictionary of American Music, Kurt Stone describes Bergsma's music as "resourceful and imaginative, essentially tonal, texturally conventional and predominantly lyrical."

Born in Oakland, California in 1921, he began his piano studies with his mother, a former opera singer, and also studied viola before concentrating on composition. At sixteen, he had his first composition lessons with Howard Hanson. Later Bergsma studied with Hanson at the Eastman School of Music as well as with Bernard Rogers. From 1938 to 1940, he attended Stanford University but went on to complete his B.A. at Eastman, where he also earned his M.A. in 1943. From 1946 to 1963, he served on the faculty at The Juilliard School in a variety of roles, most notably as chair of the composition department. From 1963 to 1971, Bergsma was chair of the School of Music at the University of Washington, where he remained as professor after retiring from administration.

 

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