Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

G. Schuller, classical and jazz musician

- By charles J. Gans The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Gunther Schuller, a horn player, educator and Pulitzer Prizewinni­ng composer who was the leading proponent of the Third Stream movement fusing jazz and classical music, died Sunday at age 89.

His son, Ed Schuller, said his father died Sunday at a hospital in Boston. He said his father had several medical conditions.

“He was a great musician. I loved him and we will miss him,” Schuller, a bassist, said. “He had a great life, he lived his dream.”

As a composer, Schuller wrote more than 200 compositio­ns, including solo and orchestral works, chamber music, opera and jazz. His orchestral work, “Of Reminiscen­ces and Reflection­s,” dedicated to his wife Marjorie Black, won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Schuller, who was born on Nov. 22, 1925, in New York, came from a family of classical musicians. His grandfathe­r was a conductor in Germany and his father was a violinist with the New York Philharmon­ic.

Schuller developed into a virtuoso on French horn. As a teenager, he began playing with the American Ballet Theater and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the ’40s, and then joined the Metropolit­an Opera Orchestra, where he remained until 1959.

Schuller discovered a whole new musical world when he heard Duke Ellington on the radio one night while doing his high school homework.

“I said to my father, ‘You know, Pop, I heard some music — Duke Ellington — last night and that music is as great as Beethoven’s and Mozart’s,’ ” Schuller said in a 2009 NPR interview. “And he almost had a heart attack because that was a heretical thing to say.”

Schuller’s newfound pas- sion led him to frequent New York jazz clubs, where he became involved in the burgeoning bebop scene in the late 1940s.

In the mid-1950s, he teamed up with the classicall­y trained jazz pianist John Lewis, musical director of the Modern Jazz Quartet, to form the Modern Jazz Society in an effort to bring jazz and classical music together. Schuller felt musicians from both genres could learn from each other.

By the 1960s, Schuller had largely given up performing to focus on composing, teaching and writing. He served as president of the New England Conservato­ry in Boston from 1967-77, where he establishe­d the first degreegran­ting jazz program at a major classical conservato­ry and instituted the Third Stream department with pianist Ran Blake as its chair. He also founded the New England Conservato­ry Ragtime Ensemble, which earned a Grammy Award for best chamber music performanc­e in 1973 for the album “Joplin: The Red Back Book.”

In 1990, Schuller and David Baker founded and conducted the Smithsonia­n Jazz Masterwork­s Orchestra in Washington, D.C., dedicated to performing and preserving American jazz masterpiec­es.

Schuller’s major orchestral works include “Symphony” (1965), “Seven Studies of Paul Klee” (1959) and “An Arc Ascending” (1996). He composed two operas: “The Visitation” (1966), based on a Franz Kafka story; and the children’s opera “The Fisherman and his Wife” with text by John Updike, derived from the Grimm fairy tale.

Earlier this year, the MacDowell Colony, a prestigiou­s artists’ residence program, awarded him its lifetime achievemen­t award “for setting an example of discovery and experiment­ation” as a composer and teacher.

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