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Bostonia: The Alumni Magazine of Boston University

Fall 2008

Guiding CFA to New Heights

Norman Dello Joio Hailed as Prolific Composer, Talented Leader

| From Obituaries | By Natalie Jacobson McCracken

Professor Emeritus Norman Dello Joio

College of Fine Arts and University Professor Emeritus Norman Dello Joio, a widely honored and prolific composer and dean of the College of Fine Arts from 1972 to 1978, died on July 24. He was 95.

Taught by his father, an organist, singer, and vocal coach, Dello Joio became an organist and choir director at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church on City Island, New York, when he was fourteen.

He graduated from City University of New York and turned to composing as a graduate student at Juilliard. In 1937 he won the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Award for his piano trio, the first of a succession of honors, among them two Music Critics’ Circle Awards, an Emmy, and in 1957 a Pulitzer Prize for Meditations on Ecclesiastes. Religion was a dominant theme of his work, particularly the life of Joan of Arc, the subject of three operas and a symphonic piece.

His massive oeuvre also includes more than forty-five choral works, nearly thirty pieces for orchestra, ten for band, twenty-five for solo voice, ballets (two commissioned by Martha Graham), nine television scores, and other works for piano (some for children), flute, clarinet, harmonica, and organ.

He taught composition and choir at Sarah Lawrence College from 1945 to 1950 and composition at the Mannes College of Music from 1960 to 1972, when he was appointed dean of CFA by President Emeritus John Silber (HON.’95). He also was executive director of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, which offers music programs during the summer for high school and college students in association with Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Silber says Dello Joio transformed the college and “brought it to its highest mettle of artistic achievement in the recruitment of many outstanding artists to the faculty: the sculptors Harold Tovish and Isabel McIlvain, the painter Philip Guston, the theater director Alan Schneider, the pianist Anthony di Bonaventura, the composer David Del Tredici, for master classes at Tanglewood the soprano Phyllis Curtin, and many others.”

Under Dello Joio’s deanship, Silber adds, the BU Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Silverstein, won the silver medal at the Herbert von Karajan Festival of Student Orchestras in Berlin.

“A dedicated artist himself, he devoted mornings to composition and spent the afternoons and evenings overseeing the work of the college and its various programs,” Silber says.

Dello Joio’s works continued to be performed throughout the United States during his deanship; Silber and his wife, Kathryn, attended premiere performances of his compositions by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy, and at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

“His presence and that of his wife, Barbara, added new dimensions to our lives,” Silber says.

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