T.J. Anderson

(Excerpted from the composer’s webpage) 

Thomas Jefferson (T.J.) Anderson was born August 17, 1928 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania and received degrees from West Virginia State College, Penn State University, and a Ph.D in Composition from the University of Iowa. He taught at Tufts University, serving as Chairman of the Department of Music, Professor of Music and Professor of Music Emeritus. He also holds several honorary degrees. He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia where he devotes full time to writing music. 

He studied composition with George Ceiga, Philip Bezanson, Richard Hervig, and Darius Milhaud. Anderson is well known for his orchestration of Scott Joplin's opera, Treemonisha which premiered in Atlanta during his tenure with the Atlanta Symphony in 1972. Although it was composed in 1911, this was the first time the work had appeared on stage in its full version. 

His three operas, Soldier Boy, Soldier, Walker  and Slip Knot, were all commissions, and follow his tendency to write based on historical events. In program notes for a concert of T.J. Anderson's music honoring the 100th year of Tufts University's Department of Music, it says: "T.J. Anderson, as all the world knows him, has spent a long and distinguished career composing music reflecting a global awareness of human experience in the twentieth century, synthesizing Eastern and Western classical traditions with the Black experience in America. His works reveal inspiration from a variety of classical styles ranging from Purcell to Alban Berg, and techniques and forms ranging from the serially rigorous to the freely improvisatory, all arrayed in a stylistic panorama that is wholly "his own". Elliott Schwartz in Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music states, “Many African-American composers of “classical” music are confronted by a unique set of experiences – influences from two worlds, so to speak. Thomas Jefferson Anderson has successfully balanced both; his music speaks to, and draws from, the heritage of European Art Music and the culture of Black America.” “T.J.Anderson has characterized his role as a composer as that of a musical anthropologist, that is a documentor, interpreter, and re-creator of culture” (Greg A. Steinke: International Dictionary of Black Composers, 1999). 

He has had collaborations with Leon Forrest, writer and Richard Hunt, sculptor. A number of his works have been premiered in the artist's studio. As a lecturer, consultant, and visiting composer, he has appeared in institutions in the United States, Brazil, Germany, France, and Switzerland. He has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Arts, the Djerassi Foundation, the National Humanities Center (as their first composer), and a scholar-in- residence at the Rockefeller Center for the Creative Arts, Bellagio, Italy. Other honors include an honorary membership in Phi Beta Kappa, a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and a Rockefeller Center Foundation grant, Composer-in- Residence Program (with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Robert Shaw, Conductor). At his 60th birthday celebration at Harvard University, letters from Robert Shaw and Sir Michael Tippett were read. In March, 1997, he was honored as a founder and first president of the National Black Music Caucus with concert of his music. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, May 18, 2005. 

He has written for almost every classical genre: opera, symphonic, choral/vocal, solo instrumental, and lots of chamber music.  Not much is recorded, but it deserves to be. #challenge #Blackcomposers


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