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American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: H (Part 1 – Heitzeg, Steve)

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“Lakes and oceans, stone beaches, arboreal forests and wild fields, birdsong—these are the original symphony, the first music” — Steve Heitzeg

Steve Heitzeg was born in the state of Minnesota on October 15, 1959. He has written more than 150 compositions since the late 1970s. Heitzeg has held teaching positions at Minnesota State University Mankato and Gustavus Adolphus Colleges. He was the 1993-1994 composer-in-residence at the University of Saint Thomas.

Photo of Steve Heitzeg, used with permission.
Steve Heitzeg, 2018, used with permission.

Heitzeg says that he is “inspired by nature to write music that promotes peace and justice, human rights and respect for all nature.” He strongly believes that music helps us to understand people, and to have empathy for other lives. People connect with music, which he describes as the universal language.

Accordingly, his compositions are works addressing social and environmental issues, including Ecology Symphony (40 Movements in Honor of Endangered Species for the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day), Aqua, Song of the Trees (based on texts by Cummings and Kafka), Endangered (Written in Honor of All Turtles and Tortoises) for cello, Blessed Are the Peacemakers, Ecology Symphony, Sacred Stones, and Nobel Symphony. The fields of Gettysburg inspired Heitzeg to compose the string elegy Wounded Fields, a co-commission of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra; it is dedicated to the victims of war and genocide.

Heitzeg composes for orchestra, choir, solo instruments, voice, and various chamber music ensembles. In some compositions, he expands the traditional orchestration with natural items including stones, sea glass, manatee and Beluga whale bones, and driftwood.

He also writes ecoscores. These are handwritten artworks with musical notation to honor nature and promote peace. Two of these, Peace March for Paul and Sheila Wellstone and American Symphony (Unfinished), are in the permanent collection of the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

Heitzeg has received much attention for several compositions, including for the score to PBS’ A Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz in 1991, and for his work entitled On the Day You Were Born, which was released by the Minnesota Orchestra in 1996.

Among the awards he has received are the McKnight Fellowship in 2001, grants from the American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer, and the Jerome Foundation. He received the regional Emmy for his score of the documentary Death of the Dream: Farmhouses in the Heartland. Some of his materials are held at the Gustavus Adolphus College Archives.

While we are looking into adding some of Heitzeg’s compositions to the NLS Music collection, please find below a selection of nature-inspired works by other composers:

Ludwig van Beethoven. Symphony no. 6 “Pastoral,” op. 68, F major, 4-hand Piano arrangement by Alfredo Casella. (BRM26508)

Walter Carroll. First Piano Lessons. Book 1a: a series of easy pieces for beginners. (BRM23384)

Aaron Copland. Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson. (BRM28669)

Aaron Copland. 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson. Instruction to learn the text with the help of a native speaker, word-for-word; by Daniel Molkentin; narrated by Katharine Dane. (DBM03595)

George Crumb, La luna está muerta, muerta, from Night of the four moons. (BRM36158)

Claude Debussy. Reflets dans l’eau: Images, for piano. Bar over bar format. (BRM00164)

Antonin Dvorak. Songs of Nature, op. 63, for SATB , a cappella. (BRM24337)

Jeremy Siepmann. Beethoven, The “Pastoral” Symphony, written and narrated by Jeremy Siepmann. (DBM03419)

Bedrich Smetana. From the Native Country. For violin and piano. (BRM21575)

Bernard Taylor. Songs by 22 Americans. A Collection of Songs by Outstanding American Composers. Includes “The Bird Of The Wilderness” by Paul Creston, “Sea Moods” by Mildred Lund Tyson, “Snow Toward Evening” by Elinor Remick Warren, and other works. 4 volumes for high voice and piano. (BRM25697)

Charles Wakefield Cadman. O Moon Upon the Water, for voice and piano. (BRM04122)

This is just a selection of what we have available. Are you new to BARD? For more information click on Braille and Audio Reading Materials or BARD Access. If you would like to find out more about our services, feel free to give us a call at 800-424-8567 x2, or e-mail us at [email protected].

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