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Crawford Gates

Excerpt from: The Rockford Register Star, April 23, 1989
Conductor Retiring, but Not From Music

     Crawford Gates -- composer, Beloit-Janesville Symphony conductor and former music director of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra -- is retiring this spring from his longtime position on the faculty at Beloit (Wis.) College. But not entirely. His colleagues there and Beloit's board of trustees granted him emeritus stayus and voted to continue his honorary designation as artist-in-residence.

     Gates first joined Beloit's music faculty in 1966. His tenure with the Rockford Symphony began four years later, when he replaced retiring director Arthur Zack. The Orchestra then consisted of about half professional local musicians and half high school students and Chicago musicians. Gates eliminated the students and Chicago artists and recruited professional musicians from the stateline area. When he resigned and Charles Zachary Bornstein took the baton as fulltime resident conductor in 1986, the orchestra numbered about 80 members.

     During Gates's tenure, Rockford audiences also became acquainted with the director as a composer. With almost 700 compositions and arrangements to his credit, he periodically included his own works in RSO's program. In 1980, for example, a 150-voice chorus joined the orchestra in performing his Symphony No. 5, Perelandra, a work commissioned for the Beloit-Janesville Symphony's 25th anniversary season. At Gates' final RSO appearance in April 1986, the concert finale was his "Overture to Spring." In a 1982 concert at the Rockford MetroCentre, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played his U.S. Bicentennial, the Ballad of the Prairie State. A State of Utah commission, Promised Valley, has been performed more than 1,500 times on five continents.

     Gates's overall composing achievements have won ASCAP Awards annually since 1967, an honor accorded to only two percent of ASCAP's members. In "retirement," he plans to continue work on several commissioned compositions in his study at home, near the Beloit campus. He estimates that the commissions will keep him occupied until 1991. After that? "I hope there will be more," he says.

 

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