William Bolcom and Joan Morris Papers

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William Bolcom and Joan Morris papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger William Bolcom and Joan Morris papers record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

William Bolcom is a composer and pianist. Joan Morris is a mezzo-soprano. They are both members of the University of Michigan School of Music faculty. Bolcom and Morris have given numerous performances since 1971. They have also recorded albums of classical and popular songs. Performance files include programs, itineraries, newspaper articles and reviews of each performance, and contracts. There are also files relating to University of Michigan student production of Mina & Colossus; original scores to Bolcom's compositions, including McTeague, Casino Paradise, and A View from the Bridge; and topical files relating to awards, competitions, and other activities and interests.

William Bolcom, born in Seattle, Washington in 1938, has been recognized as one of America's most significant composers and pianists. He began piano study at the age of five and later studied composition with John Verall, giving piano recitals throughout the Northwest before entering the University of Washington as a private student of composition, continuing his studies with Verall, and piano, with Berthe Poncy Jacobson. He received his B.A. from the University of Washington in 1958. Further studies followed with Darius Milhaud at Mills College and the Paris Conservatory of Music. Bolcom received his doctorate from Stanford University in 1964. In the early sixties his serious compositions reflected the influence of Stockhausen, Berio, and Boulez, while at the same time he was writing theater music, most notably the 1961 off-Broadway hit The Red Eye of Love and his 1962 Dynamite Tonite, written with Arnold Weinstein, which received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. The late sixties saw a shift in his focus to ragtime and American music. He composed and performed rags throughout the country, meeting mezzo-soprano Joan Morris, who shared his interest in the American vernacular, in 1972.

Joan Morris, born in Portland, Oregon in 1943, began voice study at the age of 19. She attended Gonzaga University in Spokane prior to studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York on an ABC scholarship. There she studied with Clifford Jackson and Federica Schmitz-Svevo. As a performer, she toured for two years with the Whit/Lo Singers, starred Off-Broadway in The Drunkard, and performed with harpist Jay Miller. Following her meeting with Bolcom in 1972, the two began giving concerts of American song throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Bolcom and Morris were married in 1975.

As champions of the American popular vocal literature, Bolcom and Morris perform songs from the late 19th century through the 1920s and 1930s, as well as cabaret songs written by Bolcom and poet-lyricist Arnold Weinstein. They have performed in Istanbul, Cairo, Moscow, and London, as well as notable venues throughout the United States, and have appeared on several television programs. Since his collaboration with Morris, Bolcom has continued to compose a vast repertoire of symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber music, songs, choral music and piano compositions, including the score to John Tuturro's film Illuminata and the music for Arthur Miller's play, Broken Glass. Compositions from every stage of Bolcom's career have earned him numerous honors, including awards from BMI, two Guggenheims, several Rockefeller Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts awards and grants, and two Koussevitsky Foundation Awards. In 1988 he received a Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Twelve Etudes for Piano. Morris has performed in many of Bolcom's stage productions, including The Beggar's Opera and Casino Paradise, and as a soloist in Bolcom's premiers of Songs of Innocence and of Experience and his Fourth Symphony, which was recorded in 1988 and which received two Grammy nominations.

Together, Bolcom and Morris have recorded twenty-four albums. The first, After the Ball, resulted in a Grammy nomination for Morris for best vocal soloist performance on a classical album. Other discs include collections of cabaret songs, and the songs of Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, and Kern, as well as the songs of Vincent Youmans.

Bolcom taught composition at the University of Michigan School of Music from 1973 and has been a full professor since 1981 until his retirement in 2008. In 1977 he received the Henry Russel award, the highest academic prize given by the University. In the fall of 1994, the University named him the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Music. He has also received the Michigan Council for the Arts Award from the State of Michigan, and Honorary Doctor of Music Degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory and Albion College. Morris has taught courses in voice and musical theater with the University from 1981 until her retirement in 2009. She wrote, produced, directed, and acted in two musicals presented at the University's Clements Library, The Police Gazette in 2003 and Barnum's Nightingale in 2005.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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