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Born in 1923
Inducted in 2018
Words and music are inextricably linked for Ned Rorem. Time magazine has called him "the world's best composer of art songs," yet his musical and literary ventures extend far beyond this specialized field. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy, Rorem has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos, and an array of other orchestral works; music for numerous combinations of chamber forces; ten operas; choral works of every description; ballets and other music for the theater; and literally hundreds of songs and cycles. He is the author of sixteen books, including five volumes of diaries and collections of lectures and criticism.
At age seventeen, Rorem entered the Music School of Northwestern University, and two years later receiving a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He studied composition under Bernard Wagenaar at Juilliard, where he earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
Ned Rorem has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship (1951), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1957), and an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1968). He received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 1971 for his book Critical Affairs, A Composer's Journal, in 1975 for The Final Diary, and in 1992 for an article on American opera in Opera News. His suite Air Music won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize in music. The Atlanta Symphony recording of the String Symphony, Sunday Morning, and Eagles received a Grammy Award for Outstanding Orchestral Recording in 1989. In 1998 he was chosen Composer of the Year by Musical America. He served as President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters from 2000-2003. In 2001 he was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Des Lettres by France for his contribution to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance. In 2003 he was awarded the Gold Medal in Music, for an entire body of work, by the Academy of Arts and Letters; and also received ASCAP’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He has received numerous honorary degrees.
Among his many commissions for new works are those from the Ford Foundation (for Poems of Love and the Rain, 1962), the Lincoln Center Foundation (for Sun, 1965); the Koussevitzky Foundation (for Letters from Paris, 1966); the Atlanta Symphony (for the String Symphony, 1985); the Chicago Symphony (for Goodbye My Fancy, 1990); and from Carnegie Hall (for Spring Music, 1991). Rorem's most recent opera, Our Town, which he completed with librettist J.D. McClatchy, is a setting of the acclaimed Thorton Wilder play of the same name. It premiered at the Indiana University Jacob's School of Music in February 2006. Among the distinguished conductors who have performed his music are Bernstein, Masur, Mehta, Mitropoulos, Ormandy, Previn, Reiner, Slatkin, Steinberg, and Stokowski.
The Ned Rorem Archives are at the Library of Congress, Music Division, Washington DC.