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Quenten Doolittle: Biography

Quenten Doolittle
1925 - 2018
Region: Prairie

Quenten Doolittle

QUENTEN DOOLITTLE, born in Elmira, New York in 1925, taught as a Professor of Music at the University of Calgary, from 1960. He took early retirement in June, 1988. A naturalized Canadian citizen, he holds degrees from Ithaca College, Indiana University and the Eastman School of Music.

His formal training in composition was with John Weinzweig; however, a lifetime of musical atmospheres and practical experience performing on the violin and viola and conducting were influential. His American childhood was full of the sounds of a large middle class family in which he was the fifth child of seven: temperance hymns, family sing-songs of popular sheet music, jazz from a brother musician, arrangements of operatic arias for beginning violin in school class lessons, drum solos in the attic from another brother, tap dance rhythms from a younger sister and piano player rolls -- a teeming household of sounds and noises.

Composition began in 1965 as a practical solution to the needs of a family string quartet at varying stages of accomplishment. He also wrote early works for a developing instrumental programme at the University of Calgary where, for many years, he conducted string ensembles and the University Orchestra. Since 1965, he has completed over forty works, including three operas and many other theatrical collaborations ranging from music theatre to music and sound scores for plays and film.

After a beginning of free tonality, his scores were influenced by serial and improvisational techniques. The demands of theatrical sound and music have resulted in many stylistic juxtapositions which reach back to his earliest musical associations.

He has received commissions and awards from: Canada Council Senior Arts and Explorations, Ontario Arts Council, the Killam Foundation, The Banff Centre and the Canadian Music Centre. His music has been performed throughout Canada, on the CBC and in several US centres, including New York. Quenten Doolitle performed as a violinist/violist and conductor while teaching as Professor of Music at the University of Calgary. His life long interest in the theatre resulted in four operas, and many other theatrical collaborations. A variety of orchestral, chamber, vocal and solo works complete the output. His music has been performed at numerous local recitals, national and international music festivals. His opera, Boiler Room Suite was commissioned and premiered in Banff and toured the UK including London's South Bank. Boiler Room Suite had a second production in Toronto. His music theatre piece Ruby's Heart Throbs was premiered in Winnipeg and performed in Calgary and at the Hornby Island Festival, August 1995 in honor of his 70th birthday. The orchestral version of Vivaldiana was premiered January 19, 1996 by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Hans Graf. His first opera, Charlie the Chicken was premiered at the Toronto Free Theatre in 1974 and subsequently presented at the University of Calgary. In 1997 there were two separate revivals of Charlie - in Toronto (Opera Anonymous) and in Montreal (McGill University). A workshop performance of a new opera The Leviathan Hook was heard in Toronto August 1998.

He was recently honoured for his 75th birthday with a program dedicated to his works. He was the co-founder of New Works Calgary now in its 20th season and is past president of the Canadian Music Centre, Prairie Region.

CAPAC, Canadian League of Composers, New Works Calgary (President)


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