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Derek Healey: Biography

Derek Healey
1936 -
Region: Ontario

Derek Healey

Dr. Derek Healey was born in Wargrave, England in 1936 and studied composition with Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music, London from 1952 until 1956, winning the Cobbett, Farrar and Sullivan Prizes. Later studies took Healey to Italy. In 1969 Healey moved to Canada where he received his doctorate from the University of Toronto and where he subsequently taught at the Universities of Victoria, Toronto and Guelph. Ten years later he immigrated to the U.S.A. to become Professor of Musical Composition at the University of Oregon at Eugene. After nine years on the West Coast he returned to England to become Academic Professor of Music at the RAF School of Music. Upon retiring he returned to North America, now residing in Brooklyn, New York.

Healey, whose total output includes works in most genres, has had over forty works published in the U.K., Canada and the U.S.A. Five works have been issued on records including his suite Arctic Images. Perhaps Healey's most significant achievement to date is the opera Seabird Island, which was the first contemporary opera to be taken on a professional cross-Canada tour. Among the various awards received include the University of Louisville Second International Composition contest, and the Delius Festival Composition award. A singular honor is Healey's inclusion in the 2001 New Grove Music Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Healey has written about his style and influence: "The first pieces with which I am satisfied were written in the Neo-Classic style, a style which appealed to me coming from an organist's background; the composers I particularly liked were Hindemith and Milhaud. After some four or five years I became concerned with the strict limitations of classicism and this resulted in a period in Italy where I studied the techniques of the Second Viennese and Post-Webern schools with Boris Porena and Goffredo Petrassi. The techniques of these composers have stayed with me ever since as a continuum on which to place other current interests, the most important of these being ethnic music (N.W. Canadian and other Pacific based musics) and also techniques learnt from electronic music.

Since I have lived for considerable periods of time in England, Canada and the U.S.A., I am more conscious than most of the effect the environment has upon musical creativity -- the effect of which is to divide one's compositions into a number of clearly definable artistic periods. Despite the resulting compartmentalization of one's creative output, I feel that my music has been true to the different artistic worlds in which I have lived -- the resulting divergences being an exciting phenomenon of Global Shrinkage and the Immigrant Twentieth Century Composer."



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