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Fri, 08.17.1928

T. J. Anderson, Musician, and Composer born

T. J. Anderson

*T.J. Anderson was born on this date in 1928.  He is a Black musician and composer. 

From Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson Anderson has received degrees from West Virginia State College, Penn State University, and a Ph.D. in Composition from the University of Iowa. He also holds several honorary degrees. During this time, Anderson married his wife, Lois, have three adult children, a son, Thomas J. Anderson, and two daughters, Janet Anderson and Anita Anderson Downing. 

After serving as Chairman of the Department of Music at Tufts University for eighteen years, Anderson became Austin Fletcher's Professor of Music and, in 1990, became Austin Fletcher's Professor of Music Emeritus. He studied composition with George Ceiga, Philip Bezanson, Richard Hervig, and Darius Milhaud. Anderson is well known for orchestrating Scott Joplin's opera, Treemonisha, which premiered in Atlanta in 1972.

His opera, Soldier Boy, Soldier, was commissioned by Indiana University and based on a libretto by Leon Forrest. A chamber opera, Walker, was commissioned by the Boston Athenaeum with a libretto by Derek Walcott.  Mark DeVoto, in program notes for a concert of T.J. Anderson's music honoring the 100th year of Tufts University's Department of Music, says: "T.J. Anderson, as all the world knows him, has spent a long and distinguished career composing music reflecting a global awareness of human experience in the twentieth century, synthesizing Eastern and Western classical traditions with the Black experience in America."

His works reveal inspiration from various classical styles ranging from Purcell to Alban Berg, and techniques and forms ranging from the serially rigorous to the freely improvisatory, all arrayed in a stylistic panorama that is wholly his own. The sentiments of revivalist hymnody and the spontaneous timbral resources of African American jazz are as much a part of his work as the disjunct melodic and rhythmic values of contemporary atonality. T.J. Anderson has worked in all musical media and genres."  T.J. Anderson takes pride in collaborations with his friends Leon Forrest, writer, and Richard Hunt, sculptor. A number of his works have been premiered in the artist's studio.

As a lecturer, consultant, and visiting composer, he has appeared in institutions in the United States, Brazil, Germany, France, and Switzerland. He has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Arts, the Djerassi Foundation, the National Humanities Center (their first composer), and a scholar-in-residence at the Rockefeller Center for the Creative Arts, Bellagio, Italy. Anderson was singularly honored when Bruce Alfred Thompson devoted his Ph.D. dissertation at Indiana University to an analysis of his works. Other honors include an honorary Phi Beta Kappa membership, a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, and a Rockefeller Center Foundation grant, Composer-in- Residence Program (with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Robert Shaw, Conductor).

At his 60th birthday celebration at Harvard University, letters from Robert Shaw and Sir Michael Tippett were read. In March 1997, he was honored as a founder and first president of the National African American Music Caucus with a concert of his music.  In 1990 when Anderson received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Penn State University, the citation read: "To T.J. Anderson for translating the joys and sorrows of life into moving music to be shared with the world and for his willingness to pass on to others his knowledge and love of music." 

In 2002, the Cantata Singers and Ensemble commissioned Anderson to create an oratorio, Slavery Documents 2. The work was based on Donald Sur's Slavery Documents and Loren Schweininger's The Southern Debate Over Slavery. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he writes music full-time. Anderson has also taught at institutions in France, Brazil, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany.   

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