Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Music conducting


Michael Colgrass (b. 1932)


The musical credits of Michael Colgrass span nearly 60 years as a composer, performer, author, and lecturer. Early on Colgrass held a very active career as a freelance percussionist. He first began as a jazz drummer outside of Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in both performance and composition. For eleven years Colgrass had a career as a percussionist in New York City. He had many notable achievements to his credit including performances with the New York Philharmonic, American Ballet Theater, Dizzy Gillespie, the Modern Jazz Quartet, the original West Side Story orchestra on Broadway, and the Columbia Recording Orchestra's Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky series, while at the same time he continued to compose. In addition to performing, he organized percussion sections for many notable composers such as Gunther Schuller, John Cage, Elliott Carter, and Edgard Varese. Colgrass studied composition with many musical icons including Darius Milhaud, Lukas Foss, Wallingford Riegger, and Ben Weber. With over 59 compositions to his credit, Michael Colgrass is a truly prolific composer. His compositions cover a tremendous number of genres including Solo Compositions (5), Songs (3), Chamber Music (11), Orchestra (5), Orchestra with soloist (11), Orchestra with chorus (4), Wind Ensemble (6), Young Band (5), Musical Theater (2), and Percussion Ensemble (7). Colgrass has received commissions from the New York Philharmonic, The Boston Symphony, the orchestras of Minnesota, Detroit, San Francisco, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington, Toronto, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. He won 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Music for Deja vu, which was commissioned and premiered by the New York Philharmonic. This composition was influential in exposing solo percussion writing and opening the door for new repertoire for this idiom. In addition Colgrass is known for composing a landmark work for wind band entitled The Winds of Nagual and one of the early well known percussion ensembles entitled, Three Brothers. Colgrass has received an Emmy Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, A Rockefeller Grant, and both the Barlow and Sudler International Wind Ensemble Competitions Awards.