NEA Jazz Master Gunther Schuller is a towering figure in modern music. His contributions as composer, conductor, arranger, historian, publisher, administrator, educator and musician are singularly expansive and enduring. On French horn, he played fourteen years in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and with Dizzy Gillespie and on Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool. Schuller developed Third Stream music, a fusion of jazz and classical, changing the course of both. Collaborators John Lewis and Charles Mingus are two of its great exemplars.
As an educator and administrator, particularly at the New England Conservatory, Schuller helped to lift jazz to its rightful place as art form. His instructional and music-history texts are classics. As a composer, many of his nearly 200 classical and jazz works are masterworks and have been performed in the world’s major concert halls. Schuller’s honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Genius Award, a Grammy and a DownBeat Lifetime Achievement Award. A close friend of Dolphy, he completed the composition Love Suite, a string quartet that Dolphy did not live to finish.