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In memoriam: Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller (1925-2015) was one of the most influential figures in the musical world of the past century, with a career that crossed and created numerous genres, fields, and institutions. Oxford offers heartfelt condolences to his family, and gratitude for the profound impact his work continues to have on music performance, study, and scholarship.

Schuller’s list of books with Oxford—Early Jazz (1986), Musings (1989), The Swing Era (1991), Horn Technique (1992), and The Compleat Conductor (1998)—span the range of his musical persona, and decades after their publication remain core titles in their own areas and in the music studies program at OUP. The close friendship between Schuller and his editor, the late Sheldon Meyer, legendary himself in the publishing world, is well-remembered among our ranks, as many of us at the press had the opportunity to meet and work with him on one project or another.

There will no doubt be countless remembrances which will tell of momentous achievements and deeply meaningful experiences. I have the tiniest of anecdotes to share, one that is on face silly and quirky, but to me speaks of a kind and genuine nature that may be easy to forget when considering a character of such import. Soon after I ‘inherited’ Gunther from Sheldon Meyer upon the latter’s retirement from OUP and amidst the fray of discussing his current work, I received a letter-sized envelope addressed to me from Newton Centre, MA. Inside was a carefully clipped article from the Boston Globe that related not to Gunther or his writing, or to anything we had been circling around in our recent missives. The byline named ‘Suzanne C. Ryan’ as its author, and written across the top of the page was the proclamation ‘You have a twin!!’ (indeed, my name is not that uncommon – another one of us was the longtime casting director of Law & Order). A number of these clipped articles followed over the months, and I smiled each time as I imagined Gunther Schuller reaching for his kitchen scissors when he noticed my doppelganger had penned another story for the Globe. This trivial account doesn’t hold any revelations and I can’t claim to have known Schuller well at all, but I am privileged to have had a glimpse of the delightful spirit of this intensely talented and accomplished man. We have lost a great one, but are grateful to him for all he gave.

Featured image: Conductor. © Jirsak via iStock.

Recent Comments

  1. C Tom Davis

    Dear Ms. Ryan, Thanks very much for your reminiscences of Mr. Schuller. Could you please answer the 24-year-old question of every jazz fan: will the Be-Bop Era be appearing please?

    Kind Regards,


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