Roy Harris

American Born 12 Feb 1898 Died 01 Oct 1979

Born in Oklahoma on 12th February 1898, Roy Harris drove a truck for four years before studying music at the University of California. He also studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, who had trained notable composers including Aaron Copland and George Gershwin.  His style developed a recognisably American feel - his best known work, the Third Symphony (1938), makes use of broad, optimistic melodies to evoke the vast landscapes of the American West, and greatly impressed the young Leonard Bernstein, among others.

Of more than 200 compositions, his most significant works also include When Johnny Comes Marching Home, a symphonic overture on a civil war song (1935); Symphony for Voices, to poems of Walt Whitman (1936); The Folksong Symphony (1940); and of his chamber music, the Piano Quintet (1936) is particularly impressive. 

As well as writing music, Harris taught at California State University as composer in residence, and was professor emeritus of music at the University of California up to his death on October 1st 1979.

Related composers: Boulanger, CoplandGershwin, Bernstein

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