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Bergsma, William (Laurence)

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Bergsma, William (Laurence), notable American composer and pedagogue; b. Oakland, Calif., April 1, 1921; d. Seattle, March 18, 1994. His mother, a former opera singer, gave him piano lessons; he also practiced the violin. After the family moved to Redwood City, Bergsma entered Burlingame H.S., where he had theory lessons. In 1937 he began to take lessons in composition with Hanson at the Univ. of Southern Calif. in Los Angeles. He composed a ballet, Paul Bunyan , and Hanson conducted a suite from it with the Rochester Civic Orch. in Rochester, N.Y., on April 29, 1939. Bergsma also took courses at Stanford Univ. (1938–40); from 1940 to 1944 he attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, studying general composition with Hanson and orchestration with Bernard Rogers. He graduated in 1942, receiving his M.M. degree in 1943. In 1944 Bergsma became an instructor in music at Drake Univ. in Des Moines. In 1946 and in 1951 he held Guggenheim fellowships. In 1946 he was appointed to the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music in N.Y., where he taught until 1963. From 1963 to 1971 Bergsma served as director of the School of Music of the Univ. of Wash, in Seattle, remaining as a prof. there until 1986. In 1967 he was elected to membership in the National Inst. of Arts and Letters. During his teaching activities he continued to compose, receiving constant encouragement from an increasing number of performances. His style of composition is that of classical Romanticism, having a strong formal structure without lapsing into modernistic formalism. The Romantic side of his music is reflected in his melodious lyricism. He never subscribed to fashionable theories of doctrinaire modernity.

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