Innovative Composer & Conductor Gunther Schuller Visits SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music


Gunther Schuller 2
Influential conductor and composer Gunther Schuller will return to SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music as a guest artist-in-residence from Nov. 11 to 15.

SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music is honored to welcome the innovative and influential composer, conductor and performer Gunther Schuller as guest artist-in-residence from Nov. 11 to 15.

One of the most influential Americans in music history, Schuller will work with Crane School of Music students in panel discussions, masterclasses, coaching sessions and concerts throughout his visit.

“It is an honor for The Crane School to welcome back Gunther Schuller, who paid a memorable visit to Crane in 1981. His status as a composer, conductor and leader in American musical thought is legendary, and I know that his residency will have a tremendous impact upon our students and the entire community. The innovations which he has fostered, and his efforts to connect diverse strands of musical culture, resonate deeply with Crane’s commitment to the interaction between tradition and innovation,” said Dean Dr. Michael Sitton. “We are delighted to welcome him as we move forward from our recent celebration of Crane’s 125-year history.”

During his fall visit, Schuller will guest conduct the Crane Symphony Orchestra, performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. He will also work with the Crane Wind Ensemble on one of his own compositions, and with the Crane Jazz Ensemble on works from Miles Davis’ legendary “Birth of the Cool” recording—on which he performed as a hornist. Schuller will also give masterclasses on composition and French horn performance.

The visit will mark Schuller’s first return to Potsdam since he visited The Crane School of Music in 1981, when he conducted the Delius work “Sea Drift,” Verdi’s “Te Deum” and his own composition, “The Power Within Us,” for that year’s Spring Festival.

“It is my great honor to bring my mentor, Gunther Schuller, to campus. I was very excited and felt quite humbled when he accepted the invitation. What an incredible experience this will be for our students—the opportunity to work with one of the most influential musicians of our time,” said Crane Symphony Orchestra Music Director Dr. Ching-Chun Lai, an assistant professor of orchestra conducting. “Many faculty at Crane have worked with Gunther Schuller before. We think this will be an invaluable experience for our students and the community, and we look forward to his return to Potsdam.”

Highlights of Schuller’s visit include a public panel discussion regarding music history and education, offered from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14 in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater, as well as the capstone “Tribute to Gunther Schuller” concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15 in the Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall.

All events will be free, and the public is invited to attend.

Here is the schedule for Gunther Schuller’s visit:

• Sunday, Nov. 11: Rehearsal with Crane Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gunther Schuller, from 2 to 5 p.m. in Crane School of Music Room C119. A coaching session with the Crane Jazz Ensemble, conducted by Professor Bret Zvacek will be held from 7 to 9 p.m., also in C119.
• Monday, Nov. 12: Composer’s Forum hosted by Dr. Gregory Wanamaker from 1 to 3 p.m., also in C119, followed by a coaching session with the Crane Wind Ensemble, conducted by Dr. Brian Doyle, during their 4 to 6 p.m. rehearsal in Hosmer Hall.
• Tuesday, Nov. 13: Crane Symphony Orchestra rehearsal from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., in Hosmer Hall.
• Wednesday, Nov. 14: Conversation with Gunther Schuller, led by Dean Sitton, Dr. James Madeja and Dr. Jess Tyre, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Snell Theater. There will be a French horn masterclass, hosted by Dr. Kelly Drifmeyer, from 3 to 4 p.m. in C101, followed by a coaching session with the Crane Wind Ensemble during their 4 to 6 p.m. rehearsal in Hosmer Hall.
• Thursday, Nov. 15: Crane Symphony Orchestra dress rehearsal from 2 to 4 p.m., followed by Crane Jazz Ensemble coaching session from 4 to 6 p.m., both in Hosmer Hall. The “Tribute to Gunther Schuller” concert will be offered at 7:30 p.m. that evening, also in Hosmer.

The tribute concert will open with the Crane Jazz Ensemble performing works that Schuller has performed with Miles Davis, including “Jeru” and “Rocker” by Gerry Mulligan, “Deception” by Miles Davis and “Moon Dreams” arranged by Gil Evans. The Crane Wind Ensemble will perform Schuller’s composition, “On Winged Flight: Divertimento for Wind Band.” Then Schuller will take the podium to conduct the Crane Symphony Orchestra in one of the most influential works ever composed—Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

About the guest artist:
Gunther Schuller has developed a musical career that ranges from composing and conducting to his extensive work as an educator, jazz historian, administrator, music publisher, record producer and author. Schuller was principal French horn at the age of 17 with the Cincinnati Symphony, and rose to that position seven years later with the Metropolitan Opera. In 1959, he gave up performing to devote himself primarily to composition, and has since been rewarded with the Pulitzer Prize (1994), a MacArthur Genius Grant, two Guggenheim fellowships, the Darius Milhaud Award, the Rodgers & Hammerstein Award, the William Schuman Award from Columbia University, numerous lifetime achievement awards and is an original member of the American Classical Music Hall of Fame. The composer's “Third Stream” approach was revolutionary for combining the total-chromatic language of Schoenberg and the structural sophistication of the contemporary classical composer with the ensemble fluidity and swing of jazz.
As a conductor, Schuller travels throughout the world, leading major ensembles from New Zealand to Holland to St. Louis. He has written dozens of essays and four books, including renowned jazz history studies and a volume on the art of conducting, entitled “The Compleat Conductor.” Schuller also founded and led the New England Ragtime Ensemble, and is largely responsible for the renaissance of Scott Joplin and other ragtime greats. Schuller has led the Bach Festival, in Spokane, Wash., as Artistic Director since 1993. An educator of extraordinary influence, Schuller served on the faculties of the Manhattan School of Music and Yale University; he was also, for many years, head of contemporary music activities (succeeding Aaron Copland) as well as a director of the Tanglewood Music Center, and served as president of the New England Conservatory of Music.
He is the author of “The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945,” “Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development,” “The Compleat Conductor” and many other books. In October 2011, the University of Rochester Press released the first volume of his memoirs, “Gunther Schuller: A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty.” His music is published by Associated Music Publishers.

For the full schedule of events during Gunther Schuller’s Crane School of Music residency, visit

To learn more about the tradition of innovation at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, visit

Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution.