Classical Music Conductor, Composer to Deliver Commencement Address


For decades, Rob Kapilow has deciphered the complexities of classical music and given people of all ages a new appreciation for music and its relationship to elements of our lives through his inviting enthusiasm and refreshing plain speak. This May, the award-winning classical music conductor, composer, educator, commentator and author will bring his engaging insight to graduates and their guests as the principal speaker at The University of Scranton's 2009 undergraduate commencement.

"An enthusiastic, inspirational and intelligent artist and educator, Rob is uniquely gifted at offering insight that transforms the musical experience for the listener - similar to the transformational Jesuit education given to our graduates," said Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., president of The University of Scranton. "He will provide a memorable moment at an event that marks the conclusion of their undergraduate academic careers at Scranton."

The creator of hundreds of programs and a number of acclaimed original compositions, Kapilow's work reaches audiences of all levels of musical sophistication and brings them to a better understanding of and appreciation for music.

Kapilow's long running "What Makes it Great" series, which debuted on NPR 15 years ago, are now in their 14th season of live performances in Kansas City, and entering their 12th season at New York's Lincoln's Center and at Boston's Celebrity Series. PBS's Live From Lincoln Center broadcast a special "What Makes It Great" presentation this year. In 2005, he designed a "What Makes It Great" series for teenagers that was presented to thousands of middle- and high-school students in collaboration with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Kapilow's "FamilyMusik" compositions and presentations include musical settings of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham, Van Allsburg's Polar Express, and Play Ball, based on Casey at the Bat.

He has composed numerous commemorative works, many of which as part of his "Citypieces" series, such as Summer Sun, Winter Moon, which is a piece marking the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition that reflects on the impact of the expedition from the perspective of Native Americans. A documentary film titled Summer Sun, Winter Moon is being produced that traces the process of that work's composition from its conception through its premiere.

Kapilow's very first commissioned composition, Borba for concert band, was commissioned by The University of Scranton and had its world premiere in Scranton by the university Band in May 1985, with Kapilow conducting. He was the second composer/conductor featured in the university's World Premiere Composition Series, which is now in its 26th year.

Kapilow's book, All You Have To Do Is Listen, won a prestigious American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) in 2008 in the category of music and the performing arts.

Kapilow has guest conducted ensembles throughout the world, ranging from major orchestras to Broadway shows.

He has received numerous major awards and grants. He won first place in the Fontainebleau Casadesus Piano Competition and was the second-place winner of the Antal Dorati Conductor's Competition with the Detroit Symphony. He has appeared on NBC's Today Show, was a featured composer on Chicago Public Radio's prestigious "Composers in America" series and is a recipient of an Exxon "Meet the Composer" grant and numerous ASCAP awards. He was the first composer ever to be granted the rights to set Dr. Seuss's words to music, and his music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer.

A student of the legendary Nadia Boulanger and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University, Kapilow furthered his studies at the Eastman School of Music and also served as an assistant professor at Yale for six years.

The University of Scranton's 2009 undergraduate commencement ceremony will be held at the Wachovia Arena, Wilkes-Barre, on May 31.

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