Beginning his musical career as a composer and jazz pianist, Robert Wason studied music composition and piano at the Hartt School of the University of Hartford (BMus ’67; MMus ’69), joining the Hartt Faculty as an Instructor in Theory and Composition in 1969. During his Hartford years, he worked four to six nights a week playing various gigs, and accompanied many touring artists, such as Buck Clayton, Sammy Davis Jr., Bobby Vinton, and the Four Tops. In the mid-1970s he went on to do work in music theory at Yale University (MPhil ’78; Ph.D. ’81), and also studied at the University of Vienna and the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna (Fulbright Scholar, 1979-80). A recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Paul Sacher Foundation, and the German Academic Exchange (DAAD), he has also taught at Trinity College (Hartford), Clark University, the University of North Texas, and has been guest professor at the University of Basel (Switzerland), the University of British Columbia (Vancouver), and SUNY Buffalo. He is the author of a standard work on the history of music theory in the nineteenth century (Viennese Harmonic Theory from Albrechtsberger to Schenker and Schoenberg [Ann Arbor: 1985; reprint, Rochester: 1995), and many articles and reviews on the history of music theory, twentieth-century music, and more recently, jazz, in numerous journals and collections published here and abroad.
He has also managed to keep two hands in performance, at least part time, through various projects as a vocal accompanist, including songs of Anton Webern with soprano Elizabeth Marvin (Professor of Music Theory, ESM; Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, The College, UR), and turn-of-the-(last)-century German Lieder from Munich with soprano Valerie Errante (Associate Professor of Voice at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee). Wason’s collaboration with Professor Errante also led to concerts of both popular and art songs by the Rochester composer Alec Wilder (1909-1980), available on the CD Songs of Alec Wilder (Albany Records; Troy 404). In 2010, A-R Editions (Middleton, WI) published Selected Songs of the Munich School 1870-1920, an anthology edited by Wason and Errante that contains 56 songs drawn from their repertoire, with an extensive introduction and notes.