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Bruce Saylor (born April 24, 1946, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American composer.



Saylor was born in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. In 1952 his family moved to Springfield Township, just outside the city, where he attended suburban public schools. Active as a musician in high school, he played, sang, and conducted, and also functioned as the organist and choirmaster of a small Anglo-Catholic parish in the city. He attended the Juilliard School of Music from 1964 to 1969, where he studied composition with Hugo Weisgall and Roger Sessions. He studied with Goffredo Petrassi at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome under a Fulbright fellowship (1969-1970). He received his Ph. D. in 1978 from the City University of New York Graduate Center, where he studied composition with Weisgall and George Perle, and theory with Felix Salzer.

Saylor won numerous prizes and scholarships during his years at Juilliard, and was a teaching fellow there. In 1970 he began teaching at Queens College. He is now professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens and at the City University of New York Graduate Center in Manhattan. From 1976 to 1979 he taught at New York University, then was appointed a Mellon Foundation professor at Queens. He has won fellowships and awards from the National Society of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Charles E. Ives Scholarship and Music Award), the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation.


Saylor’s musical idiom evolved from highly dissonant neo-classicism, though dense chromaticism, to a more streamlined harmonic language. Though he has written a symphony, Turns and Mordents for flute and orchestra, Notturno for piano and orchestra, Archangel for large orchestra, Cantilena for strings, and much chamber music, Saylor’s vocal music dominates his output. His two-act opera Orpheus Descending was premiered in 1994 at end of his stint as composer-in-residence at Lyric Opera of Chicago. J. D. McClatchy fashioned the libretto from the Tennessee Williams play. He has also written two one-act operas, My Kinsman, Major Molineux after Hawthorne, and The Scrimshaw Violin after the story of Jonathan Levi. The poetry of James Merrill has inspired Songs from Water Street and Five Old Favorites, incidental music for Voices From Sandover, and instrumental music as well. His vocal chamber music has most often been performed and recorded by his wife the mezzo soprano Constance Beavon. who created his monodrama It Had Wings-a story by Allan Gurganus He has written ten substantial pieces for chorus and orchestra, among them are The Idea of Us and The Book in Your Hearts, (both to texts by J. D. McClatchy,) The Star Song (Robert Herrick,) Dreams (slave narratives and spirituals), and Proud Music of the Storm (Whitman and Emily Dickinson.). He has written several elaborate scores for Nine Circles Chamber Theater, among them The Inferno of Dante and Falling Bodies, and has many times been composer in residence at The Yard, an artists’ colony for dancers and choreographers on Martha’s Vineyard.

Another part of his output is music for religious or ceremonial occasions in a tonal idiom: O Fre edom! for President Clinton’s Second Inaugural, Grand Central for the rededication of Grand Central Terminal, Fanfares and Echoes for the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris, In Praise of Jerusalem (Psalm 122) for Pope John Paul II’s visit to New York City, two Christmas recordings for soprano Jessye Norman, and concert arrangements of sacred music by Duke Ellington for Miss Norman’s Honor! festival for Carnegie Hall in 2009. He has written dozens of anthems, hymn tunes, and service music for church and concert use.


  • Songs from Water Street
  • Four Psalms
  • See You in the Morning
  • Quattro Passi
  • Cantos from The Inferno
  • Five Old Favorites
  • Carillon Te Deum
  • Jessye Norman “In The Spirit : Sacred Music for Christmas
  • Jessye Norman at Notre-Dame




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