The Kennedy Center

Paul Creston


Born in New York City in 1906, Paul Creston was a prominent composer of classical music. He studied organ and piano while working to help support his immigrant Italian family, and eventually became an organist at St. Malachy's Church in New York in 1934. He was entirely self-taught with respect to composition. He considered his teachers to be Bach, Scarlatti, Chopin, Debussy, and Ravel.

He wrote in a conservative style that incorporated song and dance idioms and often featured instruments such as the trombone, marimba, or saxophone. His compositions include six symphonies and six concertos (two for the violin, one for two pianos, one for the marimba, one for the accordion, and one for the alto saxophone.) He wrote a fantasia for trombone and orchestra and a rhapsody for alto saxophone. A number of his works were inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman.

Creston wrote the theoretical books, Principles of Rhythm (1964) and Rational Metric Notation (1979). He was also a notable teacher of both classical and jazz musicians.

Among his many awards were Guggenheim fellowships in 1938 and 1939. For his 1st Symphony, in 1941, he received the New York Music Critics Annual Award. In 1956 he was elected President of the National Association for American Conductors and Composers. After 1959, he focused his efforts mainly on composing. From 1960 to 1980, he was invited to be guest composer for many colleges and orchestras in America. He died in 1985, after a year's battle with cancer.
Paul Creston