Dello Joio

The distinguished musical career of Norman Dello Joio began for him at age fourteen when he became a church organist and choir director of the Star of the Sea Church on City Island, New York. A descendant of Italian church organists, he was born January 24, 1913 in New York. His father was an organist, pianist, singer, and vocal coach. Dello Joio recalls that his father was working with singers from the Metropolitan Opera who used to arrive in their Rolls Royce’s, and that his childhood was surrounded with musicians and music in the home. Dello Joio’s father taught him the piano at age four, and in his teens he began studying organ with his godfather, Pietro Yon, organist at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. In 1939, he was accepted as a scholarship student at the Juilliard School, and studied composition with Bernard Wagenaar.As a graduate student at Juilliard, while he was organist at St. Anne’s Church in New York, he arrived at the conclusion that he did not want to spend his life in a church choir loft, as composition began to envelop all of his interest. In 1941, he began studies with Paul Hindemith, the man who profoundly influenced his compositional style, at Tanglewood and Yale. It was Hindemith who told Dello Joio, "Your music is lyrical by nature, don’t ever forget that." Dello Joio states that, although he did not completely understand at the time, he now knows what he meant: "Don’t sacrifice necessarily to a system, go to yourself, what you hear. If it’s valid, and it’s good, put it down in your mind. Don’t say I have to do this because the system tells me to. No, that’s a mistake."In the latter part of the forties, Dello Joio was considered one of America’s leading composers, and by the fifties had gained international recognition. He received numerous awards and grants including the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Award, the Town Hall Composition Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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