A Message on the Passing of School of Music Alumnus Stephen Paulus from University of Minnesota School of Music Interim Director Scott Lipscomb
I am saddened to share the news of the passing of University of Minnesota School of Music alumnus Stephen Paulus. He died yesterday due to medical complications from a stroke. I will share details of his memorial service once they are made available.
Dr. Paulus received his PhD in composition from the University of Minnesota in 1978. He studied with Professors Dominick Argento and Paul Fetler. Soon after graduation, he was commissioned by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and went on to write 10 operas with many other opera companies. With 55 orchestral works to his credit, Paulus has been distinguished to serve as a Composer in Residence with the orchestras of Atlanta, Minnesota, Tucson, and Annapolis. Conductors who have premiered his works include Osmo Vanska, Christoph van Dohnanyi, Kurt Masur, Sir Neville Marriner, and Leonard Slatkin. Recent orchestral commissions include a violin concerto for the Cleveland Orchestra and William Preucil, a "Jazz Concerto" (co-written with his son, Greg) for the Minnesota Orchestra as well as organ concertos for the Phoenix Symphony and the Portland Symphony (in Maine).
He was a prolific, internationally-acclaimed choral composer, having composed more than 150 works for this medium ranging from his Holocaust oratorio, To Be Certain of the Dawn (recorded by the Minnesota Orchestra on the BIS label) to the poignant anthem, "Pilgrims' Hymn," sung at the funerals of Presidents Reagan and Ford. His works have received thousands of performances and recordings from such groups as The New York Choral Society, L.A. Master Chorale, Robert Shaw Festival Singers, VocalEssence, Dale Warland Singers, and countless others. In 1973, Dr. Paulus was a co-founder of the American Composers Forum (then the Minnesota Composers Forum) with School of Music alumna Libby Larsen. This organization has grown from an innovative regional initiative into one of the nation's premier composer service organizations.
In a 2002 interview in the School of Music publication "Sounding: Conversations Across 100 Years of Music," Paulus provided his thoughts on his School of Music experience. What he learned from his composition mentors was that "Music isn't just about putting black dots on a piece of paper; it is about being a good husband or father or enjoying a walk in the woods or looking at the ocean or the sunset."
Let's remember Paulus with his gorgeous choral work "The Road Home," an American hymn performed by Conspirare.
Our thoughts at present are with Paulus's friends and family during this difficult time.