He was more interested in classical music, though. In his teens he studied with some famous teachers, including Nicolas Slonimsky (editor of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians) in 1936, and Ernst Krenek in 1937. At 18 he was ready to attend Harvard, where he studied composition with Walter Piston in 1938, and Paul Hindemith in 1940. Tanglewood, a now cherished musical institution, was founded in the 1940s, and Shapero was one of its first students. When Igor Stravinsky was Norton Professor at Harvard in 1940, Shapero showed Stravinsky his Nine-Minute Overture.
Shapero hoped to get the Overture played at Tanglewood in the summer of that year, but Hindemith ordered that no student compositions would be played that season. Fortunately, Aaron Copland hastily put together an Orchestra just to play student compositions deemed worthy, including Shapero's Overture. Shapero was awarded the Rome Prize in 1941 for his Nine-Minute Overture, but World War II prevented him from taking residency in Italy. After graduating from Harvard in 1941, Shapero undertook further studies with Nadia Boulanger. While studying with Boulanger, Shapero was also in contact with Stravinsky, who was helpful in his critiques of Shapero's music. In 1945, Shapero married the painter Esther Geller.
Throughout the rest of the decade they were often residents at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, an artists' retreat established by the widow of Edward MacDowell. There Shapero composed his Symphony for Classical Orchestra. In 1947, Stravinsky and Shapero met again, and Shapero showed Stravinsky the score of the Symphony for Classical Orchestra. After looking at the score of the Symphony, Stravinsky advised Shapero to become a conductor. Leonard Bernstein conducted the world premiere performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Aaron Copland thought highly of Shapero's technical skill and spontaneity of musical inspiration.
One thing bothered him, though: In a 1948 New York Times article, he wrote that "Stylistically, Shapero seems to feel a compulsion to fashion his music after some great model. Thus, his ... Serenade ... is founded upon neoclassical Stravinskian principles, his three Amateur Piano Sonatas on Haydnesque principles, and his recent long Symphony [for Classical Orchestra] is modeled after Beethoven.
... he seems to be suffering from a hero-worship complex — or perhaps it is a freakish attack of false modesty..." In 1951, Brandeis University hired Shapero and he later became chairman of the department and founder of its electronic music studio with the day's most advanced synthesizers. He taught at Brandeis for 37 years. His notable students include Gustav Ciamaga and Richard Wernick. His daughter, Hannah Shapero, was born in 1953; she would follow in her mother's footsteps and also become a painter. When awarded the Fulbright Fellowship in 1961, Shapero took the opportunity to travel to Europe with his family for a year.
In 1970 he returned to Europe to be composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome. Andre Previn and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, spearheaded a revival of Shapero's Symphony for Classical Orchestra, under the auspices of the AT & T American Encore program. Previn has done much to promote the piece in the United States (with performances in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, and Los Angeles) and Europe (with performances in London, Amsterdam and Madrid). In 1988, Shapero retired from Brandeis University to devote himself to composition. As of 2007, he was still actively composing for both acoustic and electronic instruments. Read more on Last.fm.
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