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Norman Dello Joio

January 24, 1913 - July 24, 2008
born in New York, NY, composed during the Contemporary period
First active as a professional musician in 1927, composer Norman Dello Joio remained a prominent figure on the American landscape at the turn of the next century. A delicate understanding of musical craft as well as an honest, accessible musical language earned him many critical successes and the gratitude of countless audiences, though at times he was rejected by the musical establishment (thinking him to be too accessible to be taken as a serious composer).

Dello Joio's father and godfather were both skilled organists who took it in hand to train the boy on the instrument. At 14, Dello Joio's skill had developed enough to earn him a position at the Star of the Sea Church in New York, where constant exposure to traditional Catholic liturgical music made a lasting impression on the young musician. After attending All Hallow's Institute from 1926 to 1930 and the College of the City of New York from 1932 to 1934 Dello Joio sought more serious musical training at the Institute of Musical Art (1936) and at the Juilliard School (1939-1941). Brief studies with Hindemith in 1941 (at Tanglewood and Yale University) were vital in shaping Dello Joio's compositional outlook.

Throughout his long career Dello Joio held numerous faculty appointments (including positions at Sarah Lawrence College, the Mannes College of Music, and Boston University) and was the recipient of many scholarly honors (including a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for his string orchestra work Meditations on Ecclesiastes and two Guggenheim fellowships).

Encouraged by Hindemith to shape his compositional identity to suit those influences which compelled him in the most natural way, Dello Joio developed a musical language which effectively synthesizes the worlds of Italian opera, liturgical music, and jazz. While he was sometimes charged with being overly theatrical in his musical gestures, Dello Joio's music never resorts to garishness or overindulgence (as does the music of a great many other "accessible" composers), and it seems likely that a good number of his pieces (such as the Meditations or the second version of the opera The Triumph of St. Joan, 1959) will continue to occupy a place in the repertoire. ~ Blair Johnston, Rovi
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