Shulman, Alan

Alternative names
Birth 1915-06-04
Death 2002-07-10

Biographical notes:

American cellist, teacher and composer; member of NBC Radio Symphony.

From the description of Interview conducted by Oliver Daniel, Mar. 4, 1980 [sound recording]. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 155862275

Alan Shulman was a composer, cellist and arranger. Born in Baltimore on June 4, 1915, his early studies were with Bart Wirtz (cello) and Louis Cheslock (harmony) at the Peabody Conservatory.

In 1928 the family moved to New York, where Shulman played in the National Orchestral Association under Leon Barzin. He received a New York Philharmonic Scholarship, studying cello with Joseph Emonts and harmony with Winthrop Sargent. From 1932-1937, he attended the Juilliard School where he was a fellowship student, studying cello with Felix Salmond and composition with Bernard Wagenaar. While still a student, he composed music for the American Children's Theatre production of Hans Christian Anderson's The Chinese Nightingale (1934). He continued his studies of cello with Emanuel Feuermann, and of composition with Paul Hindemith.

Shulman was the cellist of the Kreiner String Quartet (1935-38). Later, he and his brother, violinist/conductor Sylvan Shulman, co-founded the Stuyvesant String Quartet. During the 1940s and 1950s this group was noted for its performances and recordings of contemporary quartets of Bloch, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Malipiero, Hindemith and Kreisler, among others. In 1941 they played the American premiere of the Shostakovich Piano Quintet at Carnegie Hall (on a bill which included Benny Goodman), and recorded it for Columbia Records.

Simultaneously with his Kreiner Quartet activities, Shulman was arranging and performing classical themes in a jazz style with an ensemble consisting of string quartet, bass, guitar and harp. The group, called the New Friends of Rhythm, recorded for RCA Victor and sold 20,000 records in 1939 and 1940. They recorded with Buster Bailey for Victor before World War II, and with Maxine Sullivan for International Records after the war.

Shulman was a charter member of the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini from 1937-1942, served in the U.S. Maritime Service from 1942-1945, and rejoined NBC from 1948-1954. While in the Maritime Service, he taught orchestration to Nelson Riddle, who went on to write celebrated arrangements for Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat "King" Cole. After NBC disbanded the Symphony in 1954, he helped form and manage the group's short-lived successor, the Symphony of the Air.

During the 1930s and 1940s Shulman was active as an arranger for Leo Reisman, Andre Kostalanetz, Arthur Fiedler and Wilfred Pelletier's Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air. Later, Shulman worked with opera singer Risë Stevens, producing "crossover" arrangements for her which she recorded from 1945-1947.

Shulman's first successful composition was Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra, which received its première over NBC in 1941 with Emanuel Vardi as soloist. The piece was recorded several times and is in the repertoire of most American viola soloists. Among his many successful compositions are the Suite on American Folk Songs (one movement of which, Cod Liver 'Ile, was recorded by Jascha Heifetz); Waltzes for Orchestra, premiered by the NBC Symphony with Milton Katims conducting; Threnody (For the Fallen Soldiers of Israel), premiered by the NBC String Quartet in February, 1950; Rendezvous, written for Benny Goodman and recorded by Artie Shaw and Richard Stoltzman; and the Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra, premiered by Leonard Rose with the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos. His Suite Miniature for Octet of Celli was written in 1956 for the Fine Arts Cello Ensemble of Los Angeles.

In the 1950s, Shulman wrote popular songs with entertainer Steve Allen and arranged for Skitch Henderson, Raoul Poliakin and Felix Slatkin. During the 1960s and 1970s, Shulman was busy in recording and television studios, and composed teaching material and works for band including Three Faces of Glen Cove, Interstate 90, The Corn Shuckers and Mazatlan, and arranged for singer-songwriter Cris Williamson's debut recording on Ampex Records.

Shulman founded the Violoncello Society in 1956 and was President from 1967 to 1972. He was cellist of the Philharmonia Trio (1962-1969), the Vardi Trio, An Die Musik (1976-1977), and the Haydn Quartet (1972-1982). Shulman taught cello at Sarah Lawrence College, Juilliard, SUNY-Purchase, Johnson State College (Vermont) and the University of Maine. He was made a Chevalier du Violoncelle by the Eva Janzer Cello Center at Indiana University in 1997. Shulman died on July 10, 2002.

Sources: Margaret Campbell. "Shulman, Alan." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed September 22, 2011).

"The Music of Alan Shulman." (accessed September 22, 2011).

From the guide to the Alan Shulman papers, 1924-2005, 1933-1988, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

Alan Shulman (1915-2002) was a composer who wrote a prominent piece of viola music.

Alan Shulman was born on June 4, 1915 in Baltimore, Maryland. He studied the cello at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore until 1928. His family then moved to Brooklyn where he continued his studies. In 1932, he enrolled at the Juilliard School where he was taught by cellist Felix Salmond and the composer Bernard Wagenaar. He graduated from Julliard in 1947 and then studied with the cellist Emanuel Feuermann and the composer Paul Hindemith.

Alan Shulman was one of the founding members of Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1937 and he performed with it until 1942. He then joined the United States Maritime Service, which provided training for the merchant marine. He returned to the NBC Symphony in 1948 and performed with it and its successor, the Symphony of the Air, until 1957. In 1938, he, along with his brother the violinist Sylvan Shulman, formed the the Stuyvesant String Quartet in which he performed, along with various other ensembles. The Stuyvesant ensemble, which performed until 1954, gave the American premiere of the Shostakovich Piano Quintet at Carnegie Hall in 1941, and was known for its performances and recordings of contemporary works. The Shulman brothers also performed in the New Friends of Rhythm, a symphonic jazz group that made many recordings from 1939 to 1947, and included some of Mr. Shulman's original works and arrangements in its repertory. He was also a member of the Philharmonia Trio from 1962 to 1969, and the Haydn Quartet from 1972 to 1982. A "Theme and Variations for Viola and Piano," 1940, and orchestrated later, was his first composition worthy of the concert hall. It has since become a staple of the American viola repertoire.

Mr. Shulman taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Juilliard School, the State University of New York at Purchase, Johnson State College in Johnson, Vermont, and the University of Maine in Orono. He was a founding member of the Violoncello Society in 1956, and its president from 1967 to 1972.

He died July 13, 2002.

From the guide to the Alan Shulman scores, 1939, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)


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  • Music
  • Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles
  • Variations (Violoncello with orchestra)--Scores and parts
  • Piano music
  • Music--Manuscripts
  • String sextets (Double basses (6)), Arranged--Scores and parts
  • Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
  • String quartets (Violoncellos (4))--Scores and parts
  • String quartets--Parts
  • Sonatas (piano)
  • Harp music
  • Suites (Violoncello with string orchestra)--Scores
  • Marches (Piano)
  • Violoncello music
  • String quartets (Double basses (4)), Arranged--Scores and parts
  • Violin with orchestra--Scores
  • Violoncello with orchestra--Scores and parts


  • Arrangers
  • Composers
  • Violoncellists


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