Jack Beeson BM 42, MM 43


Jack Beeson was born and received his early education in Muncie, Indiana. He showed his talent for music early, beginning piano lessons at seven. Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts inspired a passionate interest in opera. While still a teenager, he wrote a five-act libretto concerning Shelley’s Beatrice Cenci, but did not complete the music. He studied composition at the Eastman School of Music, completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and began work on a doctorate degree in 1943.

Beeson did not finish his doctorate work but instead moved to New York. He studied briefly with Béla Bartók. While teaching at Columbia University he rediscovered his interest in opera through his involvement with the university’s opera workshop and the Columbia Theater Associates.

Winning the Prix de Rome and a Fulbright Fellowship enabled Beeson to live in Rome from 1948 through 1950. While there he completed his first opera, Jonah, based on a play by Paul Goodman. Beeson then adapted a work by the well-known American playwright, William Saroyan, for Hello Out There, a one-act chamber opera produced by the Columbia Theater Associates in 1954. He has written eight more operas, including Lizzie Borden, and much other music.

In addition to his work as a composer, Beeson has had a distinguished career as a teacher at Columbia University, where he is the MacDowell Professor Emeritus of Music, a chair previously held by Douglas Moore.

The Eastman School of Music honored Jack Beeson with the Alumni Achievement Award in 1985.

-From Boosey & Hawkes Web site, 11/7/05