An influential educator and composer, Philip Bezanson helped guide the Department of Music at UMass Amherst through its period of rapid expansion in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After graduate study (PhD 1954) and appointment to the faculty at the University of Iowa, Bezanson was brought to UMass in 1964 to become Head of the Music Department and helped to expand and reorient the program, recruiting an increasingly accomplished faculty, including his former student Frederick Tillis.
The Bezanson papers include materials relating to the development, performance, and publication of much of Bezanson's musical work, including scores and parts for 46 of his 47 instrumental and vocal compositions. The collection also includes a sampling of correspondence, programs and posters for performances, papers relating to the development of the opera Golden Child and his collaboration with Paul, the score of the opera Stranger in Eden (libretto by William A. Reardon), and one sound recording.
The collection is open for research.
Background on Philip T. Bezanson
A native of Athol, Massachusetts, Philip T. Bezanson (1916-1975) graduated from Yale University School of Music in 1940. Following military service during World War II, he enrolled in the graduate program in musical composition at the University of Iowa studying under David Stanley Smith, Richard Donovan and Philip Greely Clapp. Bezanson joining the faculty at Iowa in 1948, three years prior to completing his PhD, and rose through the ranks quickly thereafter, becoming head of the program in musical composition in 1954 and earning promotion to full professor in 1961.
As UMass Amherst launched into its period of rapid growth in the 1960s, Bezanson was hired by President John Lederle to oversee the reformation and growth of the Department of Music. Named head of the Music Department in 1964, he helped guide the increasing professionalization and expansion of the department until 1973, when he returned to full-time teaching. He died in 1975 at the age of 59.
Bezanson was active as a composer, particularly from 1946 through 1975, and he received several awards, including the prestigious Fromm Foundation award for his piano sonata in 1953. He also received a number of commissions, notably in 1953 from Dimitri Mitropoulos for a piano concerto, and in 1960 for the score to the opera "Golden Child", which was performed on national television on the Hallmark Theatre. In addition to his activities as a composer and teacher of music, Bezanson was active in the Music Teacher's National Association.
Bezanson received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1971 and a Distinguished Alumni Award from Yale in 1974. The Bezanson Recital Hall in the Fine Arts Center of the University of Massachusetts Campus is named in his honor.
Materials relating to the development, performance, and publication of a number of Bezanson's compositions, including scores and parts for 46 of his 47 instrumental and vocal compositions, correspondence, programs and posters for performances of his works, papers relating to the development of the opera Golden Child, on which he collaborated with Paul Engle and which was performed on national television, score of the opera Stranger in Eden, with libretto by William A. Reardon, and other papers.
Sound recordings for Bezanson's works can be found in the University Archives, Record Group 185. Others exist and are shelved among the holdings in the Music Library, W.E.B. Du Bois Library.
Voice and instrumental parts for at least one of Dr. Bezanson's works are in the Music Library of the University of Iowa.
Acquired from Lillian Bezanson, 1975.
Sound recordings for Bezanson's works can be found in the University Archives, Record Group 185. Others exist and are shelved among the holdings in the Music Library, W.E.B. Du Bois Library. (Use the Library Catalog to locate titles.). Voice and instrumental parts for at least one of Dr. Bezanson's works are in the Music Library of the University of Iowa.
Processed by W. B. Cook, Jr., November 1981.
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Cite as: Philip T. Bezanson Papers (RG 40/11 Bezanson). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.