Ned Rorem

On this date in 1923, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ned Rorem was born in Richmond, Ind., where he was raised as a Quaker. He studied at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the American Conservatory of Music, Northwestern University, the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and the Julliard School in New York City. A hugely prolific composer, Rorem wrote operas, symphonies, chamber music, concertos and numerous vocal works.

He lived in France for nine years and In 1966 published The Paris Diary of Ned Rorem, an account of his sexuality and that of his partners, who allegedly included Leonard Bernstein, Noël Coward, John Cheever, Samuel Barber and Virgil Thomson. He also wrote extensively about music. His essays, collected in the anthologies Music From the Inside Out (1967), Music and People (1968) and Setting the Tone (1983), are generally acclaimed by critics for his prose style and revealing looks at contemporaries.

Rorem was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship (1951), Guggenheim Fellowship (1957), National Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1968) and Pulitzer Prize for Music (1976) for his suite “Air Music: Ten Etudes of Orchestra.” Time magazine called him “the world’s best composer of art songs.” His companion of 30 years, James Holmes, an organist and choir director, died at age 59 of AIDS in 1999 at their home in New York City.

Library of Congress photo: Rorem at age 30.

Freedom From Religion Foundation