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Gunther Schuller Dies at 89

A dedicated musical progressive grounded in the conservatory

Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, conductor, musician, writer and educator best known as the architect of the Third Stream, a term he created to describe the fusing of jazz and classical music, died June 21 in Boston. He was 89 and the cause was leukemia.

Born in New York City on Nov. 22, 1925, Gunther Alexander Schuller was sent at age 6 to a boarding school in Germany, his parents’ native country, where he remained for four years during the rise of Adolf Hitler. Upon his return to the United States, Schuller trained in classical music-his father served as a violinist in the New York Philharmonic for more than four decades-and became proficient on French horn. He performed, at age 15, with the American Ballet Theatre, followed by positions with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and worked in Broadway pit orchestras during the Met’s off-season. During this period Schuller began composing music-his First Horn Concerto premiered in 1945, with Schuller serving as a soloist.

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