George Whitefield Chadwick
(1854-1931)

George Whitefield Chadwick is often dubbed as the dean of early American composers. As an educator and principal composer of the New England Conservatory and founding member of the Music Teachers National Association, Chadwick taught several generations of American musicians and came to be regarded as the standard bearer of the American academic tradition in music.

Born in rural Massachusetts, Chadwick lost his mother in his first week of life. Although his father was a musician, he received musical instruction from his brother as a youth with no additional musical encouragement from his remaining family. In 1871, he dropped out of high school to devote more time for musical studies and worked at his father's insurance firm to support himself financially. Five years later, Chadwick accepted a one-year position at Olivet College and later traveled to Germany determined to diversify his music education.

In 1882, he joined the organ faculty of the New England Conservatory where he was later appointed as head director. Under Chadwick's direction, the conservatory modernized its curriculum and transformed from its former role as a piano teacher training school to a full-fledged conservatory on the European model.

An avid composer, Chadwick produced five operas, three symphonies, five string quartets, a variety of chamber works and his most famous works, Four Symphonic Sketches and the Tam O'Shanter Overture. His works portray a distinctly unique patriotic style, influenced by characterizations of down-to-earth depictions of real people's lives. Paving the way for future American contemporaries such as Charles Ives, Chadwick is regarded among those responsible for the first significant body of concert music by composers from the United States.

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