Stewart passed away in 2012.
Frank Graham Stewart is a native of Colorado. He became interested in music at an early age, starting first with piano lessons, then adding clarinet studies. With some guidance from his band and orchestra director, he began to write small pieces for his school music groups. He was fascinated with the songs and rhythms of the American Indian tribes of the Southwest.
Upon graduation from high school, he received a tuition scholarship for studies at Eastman School of Music. His principal composition teacher was Bernard Rogers, who further developed his sensitivity to musical color. Bela Bartok's dynamic rhythms, harmonies, and interest in folk music have also been strong influences, as well as American jazz and possibilities in the use of serial ideas in music. In addition to his studies at Eastman, he received a summer scholarship to study with Roger Sessions in 1939 at Colorado College, Colorado.
He served almost four years in a U.S. Army Field Band as clarinetist and arranger/ composer. In 1942 he was allowed a brief furlough to attend an interview and performance of his Suite for Orchestra by the NYC Symphony conducted by Leon Barzin, broadcast over WNYC. After his duties in the Army he was awarded the Alice M. Ditson Fellowship in Music Composition by Douglas Moore at Columbia University.
Stewart then moved to California as a freelance composer/ arranger/ pianist/ clarinetist in San Francisco and Los Angeles for a wide variety of musical groups. Later in Redding, California, he accepted a part-time position as a teacher. He was persuaded to continue his academic studies, moving to Colorado State University for his Master's degree. Before starting the doctor's degree, he accepted a one-year faculty appointment at the University of Missouri (Columbia), to teach various music theory classes.
Then he moved to East Lansing for studies to complete the Ph.D. in music composition, theory and clarinet at Michigan State University, studying respectively with H. Owen Reed, Paul Harder and Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr.
His doctoral thesis was a one-act opera To Let the Captive Go, based on the last days of Mary, Queen of Scots. It was a winner in a contest sponsored by Mannes College of Music and was given performances at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, with Paul Berl conducting.
Stewart then taught at Mississippi State University for 15 years. In addition to his teaching duties and music composing, he was faculty advisor for the Lambda Phi chapter of Phi Mu Alpha, receiving the Orpheus Award in 1974. He was active in the Southeastern Composers' League, and served as Vice-President and President for the years 1977-1980. In 1986 he was initiated as a National Arts Associate of Sigma Alpha Iota.
He has written a wide variety of compositions for solo and chamber groups of different sizes that have been performed in the United States and Europe, and he has won three prizes from the Virginia College Band Directors National Association for some of his compositions for symphonic band. His first prize winner was Illuminations for solo Trumpet, Trombone, and Tuba, which was performed again at the Festival of New Music 1983 at Florida State University.
Now living in western North Carolina, Stewart has had an opportunity to spend more time writing, including five orchestral compositions, all of which have been recorded. The first, Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, Karen Dreyfus soloist with the Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jerzy Swoboda, has been released in 2000 on CD MMC 2079. The other recordings are:
- Fantasy for Orchestra conducted by Gerard Schwarz with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra
- Concerto for B-flat Clarinet and Orchestra, which features Richard Stoltzman and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, George Manahan conducting.
- Overture Brevis, conducted by Gerard Schwarz with the New York Chamber Symphony in concert at Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall, November 17, 1997
- Scherzo for Orchestra, Vladimir Valek conducting the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra in concert at Boston's Symphony Hall, December 2, 1998, to be followed in 1999 with a concert in Prague.
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