The Kennedy Center

Wallingford Riegger


An American composer, Wallingford Riegger was born in 1885 in Georgia. His contribution to orchestral modern dance and film music was outstanding and extraordinary. He studied the cello with Alvin Schroeder and composition with Percy Goetschius at the Institute of Musical Arts (now known as the Juilliard School), graduating in 1907. He continued his studies with Robert Haussman, Max Bruch, and Edgar Stillman-Kelly at the Hochschule für Musik where he earned a post-graduate degree.

In Germany, Riegger was an assistant conductor in opera houses, namely Würzberg, Königsberg and Berlin’s Bluthner Orchestra. He was also a well respected American composer in Europe. His works were promoted by conductors like Leopold Stokowski and Hermann Scherchen.

Upon his return to New York in 1917, he became a composer of and an administrator and adviser to ensembles for contemporary music. He also taught at the University of Iowa, the Institute of Musical Art and Ithaca College in New York. He led a distinguished group of "avant-garde," contemporaries, as well as prominent composers namely, Cowell, Ives and Ruggles. He composed innovative dance music for choreographers: Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, Doris Humphrey and Jose Limon.

His work, Symphony No. 3, won him in 1948, a Naumburg Foundation Recording award and the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award. He also garnered several successes in varied dance works. His compositions include, Study in Sonority (1927), Dichotomy (1932), New Dance (1940), Music for Brass (1949) and many others. He died in April 1961 in New York.
Wallingford Riegger