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Carter, Elliot

Carter, Elliot

Born in 1908


Inducted in 1998

Elliott Carter has been not only one of the outstanding American composers of our century, but a full-scale musical activist as well, teaching at major institutions, writing, providing encouragement for his younger colleagues. After taking bachelors and master's degrees in music at Harvard, Carter went to Paris in 1932 to study at the Ecole Normale de Musique and take private lessons from Nadia Boulanger. Upon his return to New York he became music director of Lincoln Kirstein's Ballet Caravan, a predecessor of the New York City Ballet; he held that post till 1940. His own ballet Pocahontas was introduced by Ballet Caravan in Bennington, Vermont, in 1936, and in New York in 1939. The suite he drew from that score brought him the Juilliard Publication Award in 1940; as revised in 1961, it is still among his most successful concert works. From 1940 to 1946 Carter was a regular contributor to the journal Modern Music. He received the first of his Guggenheim Fellowships, and held professorships at the Peabody Conservatory and Columbia University. Carter then took up a professorship in composition at Queens College. In 1956 he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and also received the Naumburg Prize for his Sonata for flute, oboe, cello and harpsichord. In 1960, the year he began teaching at Yale, he received both the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Critics' Circle Award for his String Quartet No. 2, which had been given an enthusiastically received premiere by the Juilliard Quartet. A year later he received the prize of UNESCO's International Rostrum of Composers for the same work, and in 1961 his innovative Double Concerto for harpsichord, piano and two chamber orchestras brought him both the Sibelius Medal and another New York Music Critics' Circle Award. In 1967 he taught at Juilliard, Cornell and Tanglewood, and was active in the League of Composers. Two years later he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which awarded him its Gold Medal in 1971. Among Carter's numerous awards, in addition to those already noted, are the Handel Medallion (1978), the Ernst von Siemens Prize (1981), the Edward MacDowell Medal (1983), the George Peabody Medal (1984), the National Medal of Arts (1985), and honorary doctorates from the New England Conservatory, the Peabody Conservatory, Oberlin College, and Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Cambridge universities. In his 90th year he continues to be an active composer and eloquent spokesman for music.