Discipline: Music Composition

Charles Skilton

Discipline: Music Composition
MacDowell Fellowships: 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1926, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1940

Charles Sanford Skilton (1868–1941) was an American composer, teacher, and musicologist. Along with Charles Wakefield Cadman, Blair Fairchild, Arthur Nevin, and Arthur Farwell, among others, he was one of the leading Indianist composers of the early twentieth century.

A leading member of the American "Indianist" movement, Skilton tried to create a "genuine", national American music by borrowing melodies and rhythms from Native American songs, in the same way that some Classical European composers let themselves be inspired by the traditional folk music of their own countries.

Skilton received his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University in 1889. From 1891-1893, he studied music at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. Afterwards, he taught music at colleges in North Carolina and New Jersey, until moving to Kansas in 1903, where he served as Dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Kansas from 1903-1915 and continued to teach organ, theory and music history afterwards. In 1915, a Winnebago student, George LaMère a.k.a. Chief Ho-ton-ga, awakened Skilton's interest in Native American music. Based on traditional Native American melodies LaMère shared with him, Skilton composed "Two Indian Dances" for string quartet, two pieces called "Deer Dance" and "War Dance" that he later used as parts of his four-movement "Suite Primeval," and three "Indianist" operas.



Charles Skilton worked in the Watson studio.

Built in 1916 in memory of Regina Watson of Chicago, a musician and teacher, this studio was donated by a group of her friends, along with funds for its maintenance. Originally designed to serve as a composers’ studio with room for performance, Watson was used as a recital hall for chamber music for a…

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