Avshalomov, Jacob

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1919-03-28
Death 2013-04-25
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Jacob Avshalomov (1919- ) graduated from Reed College in 1943 and married Doris Felde, also class of '43. He played percussion and cello in the Portland Junior Symphony before earning advanced degrees from the Eastman School of Music. Avshalomov taught music at Columbia University from 1946 to 1954 before returning to Portland to become the Conductor of the Portland Junior Symphony, retiring after 40 years in 1994.

From the description of Jacob Avshalomov Papers, 1954-2000. 1954-2000. (CORVALLIS BENTON COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY). WorldCat record id: 756872711

American composer Jacob Avshalomov began life in China, son of an American mother and Siberian-born father, Aaron Avshalomov, who was also a composer and conductor.

Jacob immigrated to the United States with his mother in 1937. While enrolled at Reed College, he joined the Portland Junior Symphony and apprenticed with its conductor, Jacques Gershkovitch. After service in World War II, he taught at Columbia University, and returned to Portland in 1954 to succeed Gershkovitch at the podium. For forty years, until his retirement in 2004, Jacob Avshalomov led the youth orchestra through concerts and recording sessions and on six international tours to Europe and Asia. His musical compositions include choral, chamber, and orchestral works, as well as vocal and keyboard pieces. His memoir, Avshalomov's Winding Way, pays tribute to his father Aaron's musicianship and formative role in nurturing his son's musical talent.

From the description of Jacob Avshalomov papers [manuscript] 1924-2004 (Oregon Historical Society Research Library). WorldCat record id: 658088719

The composer Jacob Avshalomov spent the majority of his career as the director of the Portland Youth Orchestra (A/K/A the Portland Youth Philharmonic) from 1954 to 1995.

Avshalomov was born in Tsingtao, China on March 28, 1919. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1944. In 1946, following his education and a stint in the U.S. Army, Avshalomov joined the music faculty at Columbia University. During his eight-year tenure, he founded and conducted the University chorus. In 1954, Avshalomov took over the Portland Junior Symphony, whose name was changed in 1978 to the Portland Youth Orchestra. He served as its conductor until 1995. Avshalomov received many honors during his career, including the Ernst Bloch award, a Guggenheim fellowship, the New York Music Critics Circle award, and multiple honorary degrees. He served on the National Council on Humanities from 1968 to 1978. Avshalomov's many compositions include Slow dance, Inscriptions at the city of the brass, How long o Lord, and Tom O'Bedlam.

From the description of Jacob Avshalomov scores, 1928-2001. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122533120

Jacob Avshalomov was born on March 28, 1919, in Tsingtao, China to a Russian composer father, Aaron Avshalomov, and an American mother. Jacobs first introduction to music was in 1937, in Shanghai, where he assisted his father in producing a Chinese ballet and in preparing score.

In December 1937, Jacob immigrated to San Francisco with his mother. (His father moved to America in 1947.) In 1938, Avshalomov studied composition with Ernst Toch in Los Angeles. Avshalomov attended Reed College in Portland Oregon in 1939-1941. There, he studied conducting with Jacques Gershkovitch and played percussion and cello in the Junior Symphony. He received a masters degree in 1943, from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he studied composition with Bernard Rogers. On August 31, 1943, Avshalomov married Dorris Felde, with whom he had two children, both became professional musicians: David, a composer-conductor and Daniel, a violist and a member of the American String Quartet.

In 1944, Avshalomov became a naturalized American citizen. While serving in the U.S. army, as an interpreter during World War II, he made his conducting debut with a performance of Bachs Passion According to St. John in 1944. Also while in the army, Avshalomov composed Slow Dance, his first work to receive a significant hearing. The piece was performed by the National Symphony under Richard Bales in Washington D.C. on August 13, 1945.

In 1946, he received an Alice M. Ditson Fellowship from Columbia University. Avshalomov spent that summer at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, where he studied composition with Aaron Copland. Then, in the fall of 1946, Avshalomov joined the music faculty at Columbia University. During his eight-year tenure, he founded and conducted the university chorus and occasionally conducted the orchestra which presented the American premieres of Michael Tippetts A Child of Our Time, Bruckners Mass in D and Handels The Triumph of Time or Truth . In 1957, Avshalomov completed, what he has identified as his most significant work, Inscriptions at the City of the Brass .

Avshalomov received many honors during his career including the Ernest Bloch award for the cantata, How Long O Lord in 1948, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1951. His major choral work, Tom OBedlam, which premiered on December 15, 1953, was awarded the New York Music Critics Circle Award. He received honorary doctorates in music and humane letters from the University of Portland (1966), Reed College (1974), and Linfield College in McMinville, Oregon (1976). In 1968, President Johnson appointed Avshalomov to the National Council on Humanities. He served until 1978

In 1954, Avshalomov left Columbia University and moved to Portland, Oregon where he took over the 30-year old Portland Junior Symphony (its name was changed in 1978 to the Portland Youth Orchestra) During his 41-year tenure he led students on six international tours. On March 28, 1999, Avshalomovs 80th birthday was celebrated in Portland with a special concert with an orchestra made up of his alumni from the Portland Junior Symphony and the Youth Philharmonic.

Sources: Ewen, David. American Composers Today. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1949.

Stabler, David: Avshalomov, Jacob, The New Grove Dictionary of Music Online. ed. L. Macy (Accessed 12 November 2003), http://www.grovemusic.com.

Slonimsky, Nicolas. Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Musicans--centennial ed., vol. 1, 151. New York: Schirmer Books, 2001.

From the guide to the Jacob Avshalomov scores, 1928-2001, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

Born in Tsingtao (Qingdao), China, in 1919, to an American mother and Russian father, Maestro Jacob Avshalomov fell naturally into the world of composing and conducting orchestral music. His father, Siberian-born Aaron Avshalomov, composed music in China for thirty years, and in his final three years there, conducted the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. When Jacob was a boy, the family spent three years in Portland, where his father conductied the B'nai B'rith choral and orchestra. His parents separated, and after working as a teenager for a manufacturer in China, Jacob immigrated to the United States with his mother in 1937. His father followed in 1947. Jacob married Doris Felde in 1943, and their sons David and Daniel continue the family musical tradition.

After studying composition with Ernst Tock in Los Angeles, Jacob Avshalomov enrolled at Reed College in Portland, and joined the Portland Junior Symphony as a musician and apprentice to conductor Jacques Gershkovitch, a family friend. After earning his B.A. and M.A. in music from the Eastman School, he was drafted into the US Army for service during World War II. A Ditson Fellowship allowed him to study at Columbia University after the war, and he stayed on to teach and conduct the Collegiate Chorale. He returned to Portland in 1954 to succeed Gershkovitch as conductor and musical director of the Portland Junior Symphony. Under Avshalomov's direction, the symphony changed its name to the Portland Youth Philharmonic in 1978. For forty years, Jacob Avshalomov led the youth orchestra through concerts and recording sessions and on six international tours to Europe and Asia. In 1999, the youth orchestra feted his 80th birthday with a special alumni concert.

Jacob Avshalomov’s compositions include choral, chamber, and orchestral works, as well as vocal and keyboard pieces. He also worked collaboratively with his father, and in later years he set his wife's poems to music. Both as a composer and conductor, Avshalomov received many national awards and distinctions, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the New York Music Critics Award, and appointment to the National Council on Humanities. Locally, he was named Portland’s First Citizen and received the Governor’s Arts Award. His memoir, Avshalomov’s Winding Way, pays tribute to his father Aaron’s musicianship and formative role in nurturing Jacob's musical talent.

From the guide to the Jacob Avshalomov papers., 1924-2004, (Oregon Historical Society)

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Subjects:

  • Russian Americans
  • Symphonies--Excerpts--Scores and parts
  • Conductors (Music)--Oregon--Portland
  • Composers--Oregon--Portland
  • Cantatas, Secular--Excerpts--Vocal scores with piano
  • Music history
  • Music--Oregon--Portland
  • Monologues with music (Orchestra)--Scores and parts
  • Sacred songs (Medium voice) with piano
  • Orchestral music--Scores
  • Band music--Scores and parts
  • Sacred songs (High voice) with organ
  • Composers--United States
  • Oregon
  • Music
  • Jewish Americans
  • Concerts--Oregon--Portland--Reviews
  • Choruses, Sacred (Mixed voices) with orchestra--Scores
  • Composers
  • Conductors (Music)
  • Choruses, Sacred (Mixed voices, 4 parts) with organ
  • Songs with piano
  • Sound Recordings
  • Symphonies--Scores
  • JPB 02-5
  • Symphonies (Band)--Scores and parts
  • Music--Oregon--Portland--History
  • Russians--Oregon--History
  • Sacred songs (Low voice) with piano
  • Oral History
  • Performing Arts
  • Musicians
  • Russian History
  • Music--Manuscripts
  • Symphony orchestras--History
  • Suites (Orchestra)--Scores
  • Concerts--Reviews
  • Jews--Music
  • Musicians--Oregon--Portland
  • Songs (low voice) with piano
  • Symphony orchestras--Oregon--Portland--History
  • Zionism--Songs and music
  • Psalms (Music)--23rd psalm
  • Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles

Occupations:

  • Composers
  • Typescripts

Places:

  • Oregon--Portland (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Oregon--Portland (as recorded)
  • Portland (Or.) (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Portland (Or.) (as recorded)