Music and Dance Department to Celebrate ‘The Music of Philip Bezanson’

Philip T. Bezanson
Philip T. Bezanson

The department of music and dance will pay tribute to one of the most important figures in the history of the UMass Amherst music program with a special concert “The Music of Philip Bezanson” on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the concert hall that bears his name, Bezanson Recital Hall.

The concert will feature selections written by the former department chair, along with comments by current chair Roberta M. Marvin on Bezanson’s work as a composer, educator and visionary leader.

The department’s world-class faculty will be featured on the program, including Edward Arron, cello; Eric Berlin, trumpet; John Bottomley, tuba; Elizabeth Chang, violin; William Hite, tenor; Marjorie Melnick, mezzo-soprano; Joshua Michal, horn; Nadine Shank, piano; Greg Spiridopoulos, trombone; Gilles Vonsattel, piano; and Matthew Westgate, trombone. Joining the faculty will be Shane Coughlin, trumpet, and Jeewon Park, piano.

The performance will feature four works that highlight Bezanson’s talents as a composer, including his “Four Bagatelles for Violin and Piano,” “Contrasts for Voice and Piano,” “Duo for Cello and Piano” and Prelude and Dance for Brass Sextet.

Admission is $10 for the general public, $5 for students, seniors ande children, and free for UMass students. A special patron level ticket of $25 is also available, which includes reserved seating and reception with the artists, with the proceeds to benefit the Philip Bezanson Scholarship Award. Tickets may be purchased at the Fine Arts Center Box Office, by phone at 413/545-2511, or online at

Born in Athol in 1916, Philip T. Bezanson received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University School of Music in 1940. After serving in the military during World War II, he became a graduate student in music composition at the University of Iowa, where joined the faculty in 1948, completed his Ph.D. and became head of the composition program.

Hired in 1964 by UMass President John Lederle to lead the department of music, Bezanson was the guiding force behind the professionalization and expansion of the department. During his eight-year tenure, he recruited an increasingly accomplished faculty and oversaw the establishment of many ensembles and traditions that remain active today.

Bezanson Recital Hall was named in his honor following the opening of the Fine Arts Center in 1975, the year of his death.

An active and prolific composer, Bezanson was the recipient of several prestigious awards, including a Fromm Foundation Award (1953), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1967) and a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Yale (1974). He also received several important commissions, most notably in 1953 from the renowned conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos for a piano concerto and in 1960 for the score to the opera Golden Child (libretto by Paul Engle) for the NBC Opera Theater (Hallmark Television Theater).