Published April 17, 2014
Multiple award-winning Harold Rosenbaum, associate professor of music and director of choruses at the University at Buffalo, is one of the most accomplished, prolific and revered choral conductors of our time.
On March 30 he received Columbia University’s 2014 Ditson Conductors Award, the oldest continuing award honoring conductors for distinguished contributions to American music.
The award, which carries a $5,000 prize, was presented by Fred Kerdahl, Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia and secretary of the university’s Alice Ditson Fund, at a performance of the New York Virtuoso Singers, founded and directed by Rosenbaum, at Merkin Concert Hall in the Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music in New York City.
“I hope that the Ditson Award will focus even more attention on the enormous number of extremely gifted composers in this country writing choral music, and on the opportunities to hear these works performed,” Rosenbaum says. “Frankly, it feels wonderful to be recognized for decades of obsessive devotion to this repertoire and to modern music in general.”
Rosenbaum founded the New York Virtuoso Singers in 1988. They are considered leaders in contemporary American music and one of today’s top professional choirs. He also is the founder and conductor of the internationally acclaimed Canticum Novum Singers, celebrated for its stylistic versatility and expressive range, and artistic director of The Society for Universal Sacred Music.
A tireless proponent and advocate for contemporary composers, particularly American composers, he also directs the Harold Rosenbaum Choral Conducting Institute, held annually at Columbia and UB.
In writing of Rosenbaum’s selection for the Ditson Award, New York Times music critic Allan Kozinn wrote that he was an unusual choice in that past winners of the award —among them James Levine, Leonard Bernstein, George Manahan, Christopher Keene, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy and last year’s winner Jeffrey Milarsky — all have been orchestral conductors.
“The contemporary American choral repertory is enormous and growing,” Kozinn wrote, “and Rosenbaum is one of several conductors who have made a specialty of it within a broader range of works stretching back to the Renaissance.”
Rosenbaum has presented the world premieres of about 475 works, more than 60 of which he commissioned. His concert on March 30, for instance, included works by Ernst Krenek, Thea Musgrave, Yotam Haber, Karen Siegel and Michael Schachter, most of them premieres.
He is regularly invited to perform with leading orchestras and at prestigious institutions like the Tanglewood Music Festival and the Juilliard School, and is a sought-after guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator, funding panelist, coach, lecturer, consultant and educator.
Rosenbaum was the 2010 recipient of ASCAP’s Victor Herbert Award “in recognition of his contribution to the choral repertory and his service to American composers and their music,” and the 2008 recipient of the American Composer Alliance’s Laurel Leaf Award, previously given to such legends as the Julliard String Quartet, Leopold Stokowski and George Szell in recognition of “distinguished achievement in fostering and encouraging the performance of new American works.”
He is lead choral conductor for Parma Recordings and is a Soundbrush Records artist, a three-time recipient of the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventuresome Programming of Contemporary Music and a recipient of Chorus America’s American Choral Works Performance Award.
The Ditson Conductor’s Award was established in 1945 by a bequest to Columbia by Alice Ditson, widow of the noted Boston music publisher Oliver Ditson, “for the encouragement and aide of musicians.” The bequest also endows fellowships, public hearings and publication of the work of talented musicians.