In Memoriam Bruce MacCombie 1943-2012
We are deeply saddened to report the passing of Bruce MacCombie, American composer, educator and scholar of the highest order, following a long illness. Bruce MacCombie was 69 years old.
A passionate composer and educator, Bruce MacCombie created a wide array of chamber and orchestral music throughout his distinguished career. In 1979, MacCombie was awarded one of the first Goddard Lieberson Fellowships by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The award noted that “Mr. MacCombie composes polished gems of musical understatement. Characterized by a fresh and penetrating wit, they sparkle and yet are clothed in mystery.”
Bruce MacCombie was born in 1943 in Providence, R.I. He moved to western Massachusetts in the early 1960s and joined classmate Henry Fredericks Jr. (aka Taj Mahal) as pianist in the blues band Taj Mahal and the Elektras. The group toured extensively on the East Coast until the mid-1960's.
MacCombie first studied composition with Philip Bezanson at the University of Massachusetts, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1967 and a Master of Music degree in 1968. He also studied with Wolfgang Fortner at the Freiburg Conservatory and earned a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Iowa. In 1975, after four years in Europe, he was appointed to the music theory faculty at Yale University and one year later was appointed to the composition faculty at the Yale School of Music. While at Yale he coordinated an annual series of new music concerts and taught seminars relating to 20th-century music literature.
During the 1979-80 season, many of MacCombie's works were presented by the Composers Forum in New York, where Bernard Holland, writing in the New York Times, referred to the composer as "a deft and evocative craftsman." Following that season, he went on to compose works on commission from such organizations as the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Seattle Symphony, the 20th Century Consort, the Jerome Foundation and the International Guitar Foundation. During his lifetime, his music was heard at Carnegie Hall, the Seattle Opera, the Kennedy Center, the Warsaw Autumn Festival, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, Alice Tully Hall, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Royal Academy of Music and other venues and festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe.
From 1980 to 1986 MacCombie served as Director of Publications for G. Schirmer and Associated Music Publishers, from 1986 to 1992 as Dean of The Juilliard School, from 1992 to 2001 as Dean of the School for the Arts at Boston University and from 2002 as Professor of Music and Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was also awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts. In 2010 MacCombie was named Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Massachusetts.
MacCombie's most recent orchestral work, Samsara Rounds, is a serene and profoundly introspective work of revolving orchestral colors, and was written for and premiered by The Juilliard Orchestra under James DePreist at Lincoln Center in 2009. Other recent works include Light Upon the Turning Leaf, premiered and commissioned by the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival in the summer of 2010, and Color and Time, for mixed chorus a cappella, composed in 2008. In Spring, 2010, MacCombie was honored by the Yale School of Music with a Cultural Leadership Award for his distinguished accomplishments as a composer, administrator and teacher, including his years of teaching at Yale from 1975 to 1980.
Bruce MacCombie is survived by his wife, Turi MacCombie, and his grandchildren, Lila and Declan.
A memorial will be held in the fall, date to be announced. Charitable contributions may be made to the VNA & Hospice of Cooley Dickinson, P.O. Box 329, Northampton, MA 01061, or to the Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St. Amherst, MA 01002.