Herbert Bielawa was a composer in all genres, well known for his much-performed Spectrum for Band and Tape. He was also a performing pianist and conductor, director of Sounds New contemporary music ensemble and a member of the Ilona Clavier Duo with harpsichordist Sandra Soderlund. He taught for twenty-five years at San Francisco State University where he founded the contemporary performing group Pro Musica Nova, created the electronic music studio, and developed courses for the computer music major. Bielawa’s music covers a wide variety of genres including mixed instrumental ensembles, piano, harpsichord, pipe organ, choir, electronics, chamber opera, band, and orchestra.
Bielawa studied composition at the University of Illinois under Burrill Phillips, Gordon Binkerd, and Robert Kelly. He earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition at the University of Southern California where his teachers were Ingolf Dahl and Halsey Stevens. At the Aspen Music School he worked with Darius Mihaud, Lukas Foss, and Elliott Carter. He was composer-in-residence for the Spring Branch School System in Houston under the Contemporary Music Project from 1964 to 1966. There he wrote music for the ensembles of seven local high schools. In 1975 he was the composer-in-residence for the San Francisco Summer Music Project sponsored by the San Francisco Symphony and the school district. More recent residencies were in 2000 for the San Francisco Choral Artists and in 2005 for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, California. He had several artist residencies including at Villa Montalvo and Briarcombe in California, plus the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. Bielawa had commissions from Meet the Composer, the Minneapolis Convention Center, the San Francisco School of the Arts, the American Guild of Organists, Earplay, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. His music has been performed by the San Francisco Girls Chorus under Elizabeth Appling and Sharon Paul, North/South Consonance under Max Lifchitz, the San Francisco Choral Artists under Magen Solomon, as well as EarPlay and Sounds New.
Enough About Me
Notes and Anecdotes of a Composer
Herbert Bielawa saw himself primarily as a composer, but these memoirs reveal him to be a pianist, conductor, and professor as well as a husband, father, and friend. His creativity manifested itself not only in music compositions, but also in electronic and computer projects, the presenting of unusual events, and in the making of clever mechanical gadgets to solve various problems. The stories cover all of these aspects of his long life. Many are humorous, some are poignant, and all are interesting.