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Edwin London of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony Wins Ditson Conductor's Award

By Loralee Nolletti

Edwin London

Edwin London, founder of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, has won Columbia's 2001 Ditson Conductor's Award for his commitment to the performance of American works. Composer/conductor London received the award at a performance of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, which he conducted, at Cleveland State University on November 5.

Described as a "champion of new American music," London has been a major figure in the contemporary music field for more than 40 years, forming two highly acclaimed ensembles: Ineluctable Modality, a new music choral ensemble, in 1968 and the award-winning Cleveland Chamber Symphony in 1980.

Robert Ward, chairman of the Ditson Advisory Committee, presented the citation from Columbia President George Rupp to the conductor at the November concert. In his citation, Rupp praised London for the diversity of his musical interests, a reference to London's simultaneous beginnings in a jazz band and in a symphony orchestra, and for the conductor's central focus on American music. Rupp went on to acknowledge that London's performances have won praise from composers of every "stylistic persuasion," noting that in the last three seasons more than 50 new works have been performed in public or recorded.

The Ditson Conductor's Award, the oldest honoring conductors for their commitment to American music, was established in 1945 by the Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia. Past recipients include Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy, Michael Tilson Thomas and James DePriest.

Born in Philadelphia in 1929, London began his career as a horn player in both symphony orchestra and the Oscar Pettiford jazz band, demonstrating early on his ease in moving between the worlds of "concert hall" and "popular" music.

After graduating from Oberlin Conservatory (BM, 1952), London received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa (1961). At Iowa he studied composition with Philip Greeley Clapp. Subsequent teachers have included Luigi Dallapiccola, Darius Milhaud and Gunther Schuller.

London was composer-condutor for the Toledo/Antioch Shakespeare and Lyric Theater Festivals (1956-57) and later toured with the Armando Trovajoli Orchestra in Rome as a French horn player and composer. He taught at Smith College (1960-68), the University of Illinois (1973-83) and the University of San Diego (1972-73), before being named chairman of the music department at Cleveland State University in 1978.

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony is dedicated to supporting the creative work of "emerging" composers by the presentation of semi-annual concerts and recordings of competitively selected new works chosen from leading colleges, conservatories and universities. Under the leadership and artistic direction of London, the CCS has received recognition over the years for its excellence. ASCAP has awarded the Cleveland Chamber Symphony five John S. Edwards awards, the country's most prestigious honor recognizing an orchestra's commitment to showcasing American music. Other honors include the American Music Center Letter of Distinction and the Laurel Leaf Award from the American Composers Alliance.

As a composer, London has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Fromm Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, ASCAP and Meet the Composer. He has received the Cleveland Arts Prize and was named Individual Artist of the Year by the Ohio Arts Council.

Published: Nov 08, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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