Nancy Bloomer Deussen (b. 1 February 1931, New York, New York, USA) has achieved worldwide distinction as one of America's most outstanding women composers. Her original works have been performed by leading ensembles and soloists throughout the US, Canada, and Europe, and have been recorded on the BMS, ERM, North/South Records, and other labels.
A pupil of Vittorio Giannini, Lukas Foss, and Wilson Coker, she attended the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, and the University of Southern California, earning baccalaureate degrees in both composition and music education. She also completed extensive graduate studies at UCLA, USC, and San Jose State University.
Nancy's career as a composer began in the 1950s, and from the outset she drew inspiration from the natural world—a fact reflected in the evocative titles given to many of her scores. Espousing a strong environmental ethic, she is keenly aware that human life now and in the future will depend on the conservation of the Earth's precious resources. To this end she has applied her creative talent for the benefit of those groups which share her concerns, with a view towards expanding public awareness of key ecological issues.
With characteristic candor and wit, Nancy describes a period in her life when her creative activity was interrupted:
I did miss twenty years of composition between 1965 and 1985 when most of those years I was struggling to support my family (as a single parent). . . . These are probably the most productive years for many composers (from age thirty to fifty) so you can understand why I am such a late Bloomer (pun intended) and why my career is so active so late in my life. I am trying to make up for lost time.
During the same period, Nancy also battled an inspiration-stifling illness, but since overcoming these obstacles, she has more than made up for lost time, and now sustains an intensely productive artistic career while still finding time to be a caring grandmother.
Her style, in which "melody is foremost," represents a sophisticated but highly accessible synthesis of traditional tonality and contemporary harmonic and rhythmic idioms. In orchestral works such as Carmel by-the-Sea (1987) and Night Forest (2004)—the latter part of a fivefold cycle for Native American Flute and Orchestra to which four other Delian Society composers contributed movements, she is capable of projecting through sound what the best landscape artists successfully capture on canvas and in film: a thriving world of organic shapes and forms whose innate beauty is matched by a painterly sense of depth, balance, and proportion. In addition to symphonic music, Nancy has written for concert band ("The Dawn of Freedom," 2006); chamber ensemble (Woodwind Quintets, 1965, 1996); solo instruments ("Pegasus Suite" for flute and piano, 1998); chorus (The Message, 2004); and solo voice (The World is a Butterfly's Wing, 1999).
The recipient of many honors, awards, grants, and commissions, Nancy is cofounder and President Emeritus of the National Association of Composers' Bay Area Chapter and has served as a leading West Coast representative of the Derriere Guard. She has also been an associate faculty member of the music department at Mission College in Santa Clara, California, where she was choral director and taught courses in piano and music history. She makes her home in Palo Alto.
Nancy recently reflected on the decline of tonal art music in the past century and its recent resurgence both inside and outside of Academe:
Contemporary tonal composers were virtually dismissed from the classical music hierarchy from approximately 1940 until about ten years ago. Universities taught only experimental sounds, serial music, music based on textures, electronic music, and highly complicated programmatic music in their composition departments, and the traditional studies of harmony, melody, form, and counterpoint were all but eliminated from music conservatories. This, in my opinion, was very unfortunate, as the natural course of musical history and lineage was almost irreparably interrupted and hundreds of young composers were not only discouraged from composing tonal melodic music but were actually punished and shunned for doing so.
Fortunately some younger composers did not cave in to the pressure to conform and some older composers, whose voices and conviction were very strong, just waited until the tide of atonality began to recede. That time is now, and tonality is returning, much to the delight of the audience who has always supported it, especially the melodic aspects . . . Altogether, the new and older tonal composers are banding together in groups, for in unity lies power. The Delian Society is one such group, and I am proud to be a member.
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