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Building Bridges With Music

Stories from a Composer's Life

Samuel Adler
June 1, 2017

276 pp.

55 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1-57647-303-0

HC, oblong, 10x7 $59.95

Purchase on Boydell & Brewer

Description

After over sixty years of teaching and finally retiring for the third time in May of 2016, I felt the urge to write down the many stories I have experienced during my long life. This book covers occurrences from my early childhood in Nazi Germany, emigrating to the United States at age ten, my education on the high school and college levels, my years in the army (an education, to be sure, albeit of a different kind), as well as the many professional experiences as a composer, conductor, teacher, author and administrator both in this country and abroad. I have tried to relate the many encounters with some of the most important personalities in the world of music, the other arts, academia, religion, and even politics. My life has been blessed with a most supportive family, many good friends, and a host of students who have made my teaching years rewarding and colorful. Building Bridges with Music seems to have been part of my destiny and I have embraced this enthusiastically whenever the opportunity presented itself. I invite you to have this experience with me through this book.

SamuelAdler

Authors

Samuel Adler:

Reviews

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Building Bridges with Music Stories from a Composer's Life by Samuel Adler, edited by Jurgen Thym Pendragon Press, 264 pages, $39.95 Samuel Adler is one of the most respected composers in America today. He has written in a wide range of genres, including string quar­ tets, solo pieces, symphonic works, choral items, and operas. ARG has reviewed his works 14 times over the past 30 years. But even many musicians and listeners who enjoy and admire his compositions may not realize how rich and varied a career he has had. His life, continu­ ously intertwined with his musical activities, has had its share of tumult, striving, and plain goodluck. All of this is apparent in the substantial book of memoirs just published. The book's apt title stresses Adler's lifelong efforts at mak­ ing music happen in many different contexts­ that is, his devoted attempts at bringing music to many different audiences. And the subtitle reflects his eagerness to share his interesting memories and anecdotes and the heartening and deeply humane messages that they carry. Some of the stories that Adler has to tell may be familiar to people who knew him in his many years as a professor at North Texas State University, the Eastman School of Music, and the Juilliard School-or at hissummer compo­ sition courses at Bowdoin College (Maine) and in Germany. The 40 years that I spent teaching music history and musicology at Eastman over­ lapped with Sam's 30 years as a prominent professor of composition there. When Sam showed me the manuscript of this book, I urged him to send it to Pendragon Press, for its "American Music and Musicians" series. I was delighted to learn that Pendragon quickly saw its merits. As a result, news of Sam Adler's wide-ranging activities, and the artful way that he has managed so many aspects of "the music biz'; can reach a large readership. The stories in this book will interest performing musicians, lovers of classical music, and any­ one who likes to reflect on the way classical music has thrived-and might still thrive in the future-in the social and cultural melting pot that is the United States. The most gripping parts of Building Bridges with Music are the. early chapters, American Record Guide where we learn how 10-year-old Sam and his sister Marianne and their parents-a Jewish family living in Mannheim, Germany-man­ aged to make their way in 1939 from life under Hitler to the United States, got settled in (even­ tually) Worcester, Massachusetts, and began to build new and productive lives. Sam was a tal­ ented all-around musician-violinist, fledgling composer, eager conductor-when he began making his mark at Boston University and then pursued further compositional study under Hindemith and Copland. One of the most fascinating parts of the book tells of the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra (1952-62), which it was Sam's idea to create and conduct in order to improve the public image of the United States military in post-WW II Germany. The remainder of that orchestra's fascinating history was told in the book Uncle Sam's Orchestra, by John Canari­ na, its last conductor (N/D 1999). The "Uncle Sam" in the title refers primarily to the United States but could refer also to another Sam: the orchestra's founder! Adler sheds light on the inner workings of several major music schools, and he shares memorable accounts of his interactions with prominent figures in musical life (including a humorously annoying run-in with 1950s pop singer Eddie Fisher). He sketches the main lines of his personal life, but this is primarily about his musical activities. We get the back story to many of Adler's compositions and learn about the challenges involved in bringing the larger­ ensemble ones, especially, to performance. He was determined to write music that uses a wide range of stylistic resources yet communicates directly. For a wonderful taste of the results, I recommend Canto XII for solo bassoon: four etudes, including one titled 'Sermon' and another based on the famous opening of The Rite of Spring(Albany 306). The book concludes with two essays based on his extensive experience creating music for Jewish worship, an interview by Marilyn Shrude on teaching composition, plus lists of Adler's composition students and of his own compositions. The latter is still not complete: at age 89 he remains an active force in the musical life of our nation and the wider world. The book's editor, Jurgen Thym (a long­ time professor of musicology at the Eastman School) provides helpful footnotes identifying the many individuals mentioned. Pendragon has gone to the expense of publishing the book in a wider-than-usual for­ mat, and has used bright-white paper. These decisions allow dozens of photos to be includ­ ed, some of them in a format large enough for interesting details to "tell''. A few of the photos are even in color! Some, once seen, are unfor­ gettable-for example, a sepia-toned snapshot of 10-year-old Sam on board a ship with many other immigrants. He stands in open-mouthed astonishment, his hands reaching slightly out­ ward, as the Statue of Liberty comes into view. LOCKE

American Record Guide



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American composer Samuel Adler will turn 90 next year. Having retired from a full teaching schedule, he set down events from his rather eventful existence in Building Bridges- with Music: Stories from a Composer's Life. The events ore told chronologically as a series of connected anecdotes written in on unassuming, breezy manner from a seemingly prodigious memory for hap¬ penings and their details. Adler was born in Mannheim, Germany just before the rise of Hitler. His father, Hugo Adler, was a cantor in the German Reform Jewish tradition and a composer. Adler had his formative musical experiences with his father, who worked with him doily to explore a wide variety of music to supplement Adler's violin study. All this was abruptly interrupted in November, 1938 with Kristollnacht, the pogrom against Jews promulgated by the Nazi regime after many years of governmental measures circumscribing Jewish existence. Adler relates how he (just 10 years old) and his father stealthily entered his father's bombed-out temple shortly af¬ terword to rescue sacred books while evading discovery by the armed Nazis guarding the ruins. Kristallnacht was the signal for a large number of Germon Jews that it was time to leave Germany. The Adler family was in this group despite their having lived in Mannheim for centuries. Their exit to the United States was facilitated by a fluke with U.S. immigration quotas but impeded by the post-Kristollnacht roundup of Jewish clergy that led to Hugo's arrest and incarceration in a concentration comp. The U.S. government's protest over this roundup led to Hugo's release and the Adler family's emigration. They eventu¬ ally settled in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Hugo was offered a pulpit. It seems likely that this escape was a strong force in encouraging Adler to adopt the attitude to (in his words) "live every moment of my life as fully as pos¬ sible... " True to this motto, Adler's stories show him eager and energetic to find and take advantage of opportunities and, as his book's title suggests, to build lasting and rewarding relationships. Adler went to school in the Boston area and ultimately wound up at Harvard, where he studied composition with Walter Piston and Paul Hindemith. He also sought out Aaron Copland, who reluctantly took him on as a student. Hindemith persuaded him on the value of identifying and mastering technique; Copland taught him to work until he loved every note. Both of these lessons Adler apparently took to heart his entire career, during which he has been remarkably prolific; his music is characteristically both well-crafted and convincing. Drafted in 1950, Adler was trained as an artilleryman and sent to Germany as part of the army of occupation. Through a combination of happenstance and initiative, Adler was assigned a variety of musical tasks and, because of his German heritage, served as liaison with local populations. In the latter capacity, Adler organized and conducted a number of choirs and instrumental ensembles as part of an army outreach program. It's remarkable that Adler's attitude toward the locals was apparently unaffected by his family being forced to flee a hostile Germany just 12 years before or by the German nation's annihilation of a third of the world's Jews in the interim. Rather, he was intent on repair (following tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world), even between local groups with ancient mistrust, such as Protestants and Catholics. In the process, he encountered some locals who had fond memories of his family, his father in particular. Adler's chief accomplishment in the army was organizing the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra. With the examples of his local musical enterprises, he managed to persuade the high command to allow him to recruit players from the entire occupation army roster and to provide the means for him to conduct concerts of American and German music. (Would that some modern day American orchestras adopt this programming philosophy by adding some American music to their predominantly German repertoire!) De¬ spite Adler's matter-of-fact description, this was an amazing achievement, not just because the army is not noted for imagination and flexibility, but more be¬ cause of what Adler had to overcome on his own behalf: he was merely a corporal and there was residual anti-Semitism in the army. Reading be¬ tween the lines, it must have taken considerable drive and diplomacy to pull it off. After the army, Adler took a position as music director of Temple Emanu-EI in Dallas, Texas, where he built musical institutions to support worship and wrote music for them. These musical forces became impressive enough for Leonard Bernstein's publisher to offer Adler the American premiere of Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. (This Adler refused, a slight Bernstein never forgave, leading to a cruel hazing of Adler later on.) Following his sojourn in Dallas, Adler entered the traditional academic track: he spent nearly 30 years teaching at Eastman, where he headed the composition faculty, and then almost another 20 at Juilliard . He authored a number of instructional texts, including on.e on sight singing and a widely-acclaimed book on orchestration. The latter is remarkable for the breadth of musical ex¬ amples (the book was accompanied by recordings, originally issued on disc but now available to stream) and its comprehensiveness (also its price: over $100 on amazon.com). He taught hundreds of students, some of whom became significant composers in their own right. He also composed a ton of music of all kinds, from solo works to operas. The bulk of the book consists of stories about his experiences bringing this music to life and about his life in music, replete with people he encountered and worked with and places where all this happened. The stories about people and places ore perhaps of the greatest interest to the general reader. Adler describes encounters with figures from popular culture - pop singer Eddie Fisher and movie star Audrey Hepburn-whose narcissistic behavior was directly at odds with their public image. There are composers behaving badly, too, like lannis Xenakis who proved himself a boor at a festival in Israel. By and large, though, Adler found himself in the role of diplomat or peacemaker, as with his managing on awkward situation with on alcoholic col¬ league at Eastman and on uncomfortable presentation at Eastman by composer Da¬ vid Diamond. There ore anecdotes about places, too, like trying to find a plumber in status-conscious Vienna (accomplished only ofter Adler identified himself as a professor) and experiencing such naked anti-Semitism in Poland that he decided never to return. Occasionally Adler provides a glimpse into practical issues related to the business of being a composer. For example, in describing his retirement from teach¬ ing at summer programs, he mentions in passing that the program hod expected him to bring his own students. In another instance, a German orchestra asked him to compose a piece for them and he hod to inform them that there was a fee expected for this service. IHe suggested they find a business sponsor who would underwrite this. They called him back the next day to tell him they had found such a sponsor for not only this commission, but for commissions in future years. So not only was Adler himself eager - he typically soys he agreed "readily" to opportunities- he was fortunate to have found people to work with who were equally as motivated . Reading between the lines again, perhaps this was evidence of Adler's mastery of the art of persuasion.) Appendices follow the autobiography. Here the focus is likely to appeal more to those with a professional music interest. The first two ore closely related: a pa¬ per entitled "Composing for Worship," delivered at a 1989 symposium at West¬ minster Choir College, and another surveying "Music of the Synagogue," pub¬ lished initially in 1964 but updated fn 2001. Both ore scholarly in tone, in contrast with the autobiography's informality, and both provide knowledgeable and experienced insights. The lotter paper includes many illustrative musical examples. The third appendix is the transcript of a 2008 interview on the subject "Teaching Composition in Twenty-First Century America" that touches on the current state of composition and the musical world in general as well as the stated topic. After reading the autobiography, there are few surprises here; but the presentation is concise, compelling, and down-to-earth. All in all, Building Bridges with Music is an engaging read. If only the book itself weren't so unwieldly: it has the form fac¬ tor and heft of a coffee table book, mak¬ ing it difficult to read except at a desk-but worth the effort.

New Music Connoisseur 2017



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Ahead of 90th Birthday, Adler’s New Memoir Released by Evan Fein Those of us who have been lucky enough to study with the great composer and educator Samuel Adler know that one of the most beloved part of lessons was “story time.” Adler—who was a student of Hindemith and Copland—had known nearly everyone in the American music scene for past half century, and liked to share his experiences with his students. More than just colorful anecdotes, these tales wove themselves into the essence of his pedagogical style, becoming object lessons on life, career, and creativity. After retiring for the third time, who turns 90 in March and has been a professor emeritus since 2014 finally set down his tales in a format for everyone to enjoy. His latest and most comprehensive memoir, Building Bridges With Music: Stories From a Composer’s Life, published this summer by Pendragon Press, is an engaging and disarmingly frank chronicle of his professional and personal lives. In a deftly conversational tone, Adler takes us through his childhood in Mannheim, his family’s narrow escape from Germany shortly before the outbreak of WWII, his time at the then-nascent Tanglewood Music Center, through his years in Dallas and at Eastman, and finally to his 18-year tenure at Juilliard. Some stories are humorous, like his 10-year wait for a letter of recommendation from Aaron Copland or his disastrous luncheon with Audrey Hepburn; others, distinctly less so, like the account of the end of his first marriage. Told with the same honesty and passion he brings to his teaching, this volume is both entertaining and instructive, and sure to be an important primary source about America’s new music scene in the America of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Adler’s students will be particularly delighted to see each of their names painstakingly inscribed in an index, and it is this former student’s hope that for Dr. Adler, “retirement” means many more years of teaching and making wonderful music. JUILLIARD JOURNAL, November 2017 There's an old saying that a .,.prophet gets honored everywhere save in his own country. There are also cases ' when, even in this age of universal media, fascina ting peo-ple are overlooketl.· · 1 Samuel Adler, a man who is without doubt one of the greatest living composers and conductors, is a case in point. He has an international reputation, not just for his own music, but as a ;renowned teacher who has'given master classes at universities all over the world, from Julliard to Tanglewood to the Eastman School of Musicr where he taught for 30 years. His own teachers included , Aaron Copland and Paul Hin­ demith. He is a major figure in Jewish and Christian music for worship and is still going strong as he approaches his 90th birthday. I knew of him but only recently learned that he now lives in Perrysburg, where his wife, Emily Freeman Brown, is music director ·and con­ ductor of Bowling Green State University Philharmonia and Opei;a Theater. However, he may be about to be a lot better known. His autobiography, Building Bridges With Music, has just been published, and it is a spellbinding book by a truly remarkable man. This would be a fascinating book for anyone who has any interest in history or humanity and is extremely well-written. Though his music is well-documented here and his philosophy of composing explained, I can imagine someone enjoying this book who had no interest in music whatsoever. Sam Adler at times seems a bit like Woody Allen's fictional Zelig, who had a knack for showing up at many key points in history. Today, Mr, Adler is a cheerful, upbeat man who . physically and mentally seems far close·r to 70 than 90. Nobody meeting him for the first time would ever guess that he was badly and 'repeatedly,beaten as a .small childbytheHitlerYouth in his. native Mannheim, Germany, or' that he and'" his parents barely escaped the unspeakable Holocaust that,(ollowed2, Nevertheless, he did,- and one of the·many remarkable pictures in this book shows Sam as a, "faintly frightened ten--year-old · in short pants, standing on deck, surrounded by strange. people who were all uncertain of their own future;' staring at the Statue of Liberty. Barely more than a decade later, a young .Sam Adler served with the troops occupying Germany after the war and started the Seventh Army Symphony, for which he was later given a medal by Dwight D. Eisenhower. That was merely the start of a fascinating life that ·is as remarkable for who Sam Adler was as a human being as for his many accomplish- ments. His life was not always smooth, and he is brutally honest in recounting his share of failures and setbacks. His ego had to deal with the devastation of learning that his particular style of music was not for everyone. But he had more than his share of triumphs, too. "Samuel Adler is a composer who lends his creativity to the needs of his fellow human beings;" Jurgen Thym, his editor, noted in his introduction, adding that the qualities that have defined the composer best are "infectious optimism and life-affirming spirit.” For his part, the composer concludes at the end of his lavishly illustrated book that his life has been ruled by the Jewish concept of tikkun olam - "healing or repairing the world so that by our life's work we would .leave .the world a better place than when we depart from it:' Nobody who reads very far in Building Bridges will "doubt for a moment that .this is exactly what Samuel Adler has done. By JACK LE$SENBERRY SPECIAL TO THE BLADE, Toledo, Ohio December 10-, 2017 Those of us who have been lucky enough to study with the great composer and educator Samuel Adler know that one of the most beloved parts of lessons was "story time." Adler-who was a student of Hindemith and Copland-has known nearly everyone in the American music scene for the past half century, and liked to share his experiences with his students. More than just colorful anecdotes, these tales wove themselves into the essence of his pedagogical style, becoming object lessons on life, career, and creativity. After retiring for the third time Adler, who turns 90 in March and has been an emeritus faculty member since 2016, finally set down In a format for everyone to enJoy. His latest and most comprehensive memoir, Building Bridges With Music: Stories From a Composer's Life, published this summer by Pendragon Press, is an engaging and disarmingly frank chronicle of his professional and personal lives. In a deftly conversational tone, Adler takes us through his childhood in Mannheim, his family's narrow escape from Germany shortly before the outbreak of WWI I, his time at the then-nascent Tanglewood Music Center, through his years in Dallas and at Eastman, and finally to his 18-year tenure at Juilliard. Some stories are humorous, like his se1aown nis mies In a rormat Tor everyone to enJoy. His latest and most comprehensive memoir, Building Bridges With Music: Stories From a Composer's Life, published this summer by Pendragon Press, is an engaging and disarmingly frank chronicle of his professional and personal lives. In a deftly conversational tone, Adler takes us through his childhood in Mannheim, his family's narrow escape from Germany shortly before the outbreak of WWI I, his time at the then-nascent Tanglewood Music Center, through his years in Dallas and at Eastman, and finally to his 18-year tenure at Juilliard. Some stories are humorous, like his 10-year wait for a letter of recommendation from Aaron Copland or his disastrous luncheon with Audrey Hepburn; others, distinctly less so, like the account of the end of his first marriage. Told with the same honesty and passion he brings to his teaching, this volume is entertaining, instructive, and sure tc be an important primary source about America's new music scene in the 20th and early 21st centu ries. Adler's students will be particularly delighted to see each of their names painstakingly inscribed in an index, and it is this former student's hope that for Dr. Adler, "retirement" means many more years of teaching and making wonderful music.

“Juilliard Journal, November 2017”




0, 0000

Those of us who have been lucky enough to study with the great composer and educator Samuel Adler know that one of the most beloved part of lessons was “story time.” Adler—who was a student of Hindemith and Copland—had known nearly everyone in the American music scene for past half century, and liked to share his experiences with his students. More than just colorful anecdotes, these tales wove themselves into the essence of his pedagogical style, becoming object lessons on life, career, and creativity. After retiring for the third time, who turns 90 in March and has been a professor emeritus since 2014 finally set down his tales in a format for everyone to enjoy. His latest and most comprehensive memoir, Building Bridges With Music: Stories From a Composer’s Life, published this summer by Pendragon Press, is an engaging and disarmingly frank chronicle of his professional and personal lives. In a deftly conversational tone, Adler takes us through his childhood in Mannheim, his family’s narrow escape from Germany shortly before the outbreak of WWII, his time at the then-nascent Tanglewood Music Center, through his years in Dallas and at Eastman, and finally to his 18-year tenure at Juilliard. Some stories are humorous, like his 10-year wait for a letter of recommendation from Aaron Copland or his disastrous luncheon with Audrey Hepburn; others, distinctly less so, like the account of the end of his first marriage. Told with the same honesty and passion he brings to his teaching, this volume is both entertaining and instructive, and sure to be an important primary source about America’s new music scene in the America of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Adler’s students will be particularly delighted to see each of their names painstakingly inscribed in an index, and it is this former student’s hope that for Dr. Adler, “retirement” means many more years of teaching and making wonderful music. JUILLIARD JOURNAL, November 2017 There's an old saying that a .,.prophet gets honored everywhere save in his own country. There are also cases ' when, even in this age of universal media, fascina ting peo-ple are overlooketl.· · 1 Samuel Adler, a man who is without doubt one of the greatest living composers and conductors, is a case in point. He has an international reputation, not just for his own music, but as a ;renowned teacher who has'given master classes at universities all over the world, from Julliard to Tanglewood to the Eastman School of Musicr where he taught for 30 years. His own teachers included , Aaron Copland and Paul Hin­ demith. He is a major figure in Jewish and Christian music for worship and is still going strong as he approaches his 90th birthday. I knew of him but only recently learned that he now lives in Perrysburg, where his wife, Emily Freeman Brown, is music director ·and con­ ductor of Bowling Green State University Philharmonia and Opei;a Theater. However, he may be about to be a lot better known. His autobiography, Building Bridges With Music, has just been published, and it is a spellbinding book by a truly remarkable man. This would be a fascinating book for anyone who has any interest in history or humanity and is extremely well-written. Though his music is well-documented here and his philosophy of composing explained, I can imagine someone enjoying this book who had no interest in music whatsoever. Sam Adler at times seems a bit like Woody Allen's fictional Zelig, who had a knack for showing up at many key points in history. Today, Mr, Adler is a cheerful, upbeat man who . physically and mentally seems far close·r to 70 than 90. Nobody meeting him for the first time would ever guess that he was badly and 'repeatedly,beaten as a .small childbytheHitlerYouth in his. native Mannheim, Germany, or' that he and'" his parents barely escaped the unspeakable Holocaust that,(ollowed2, Nevertheless, he did,- and one of the·many remarkable pictures in this book shows Sam as a, "faintly frightened ten--year-old · in short pants, standing on deck, surrounded by strange. people who were all uncertain of their own future;' staring at the Statue of Liberty. Barely more than a decade later, a young .Sam Adler served with the troops occupying Germany after the war and started the Seventh Army Symphony, for which he was later given a medal by Dwight D. Eisenhower. That was merely the start of a fascinating life that ·is as remarkable for who Sam Adler was as a human being as for his many accomplish- ments. His life was not always smooth, and he is brutally honest in recounting his share of failures and setbacks. His ego had to deal with the devastation of learning that his particular style of music was not for everyone. But he had more than his share of triumphs, too. "Samuel Adler is a composer who lends his creativity to the needs of his fellow human beings;" Jurgen Thym, his editor, noted in his introduction, adding that the qualities that have defined the composer best are "infectious optimism and life-affirming spirit.” For his part, the composer concludes at the end of his lavishly illustrated book that his life has been ruled by the Jewish concept of tikkun olam - "healing or repairing the world so that by our life's work we would .leave .the world a better place than when we depart from it:' Nobody who reads very far in Building Bridges will "doubt for a moment that .this is exactly what Samuel Adler has done. By JACK LE$SENBERRY SPECIAL TO THE BLADE, Toledo, Ohio December 10-, 2017

THE BLADE, Toledo, Ohio December 10-, 2017

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