Discipline: Music Composition

Norman Dello Joio

Discipline: Music Composition
MacDowell Fellowships: 1943, 1944

Norman Dello Joio (1913-2008) was born Nicodemo DeGioio in New York City to Italian immigrants. He began his musical career as organist and choir director at the Star of the Sea Church on City Island in New York at age 14. His father, Casimiro, was an organist, pianist, part-time composer, and vocal coach and coached many opera stars from the Metropolitan Opera. He taught Norman piano starting at the age of four. In his teens, Norman began studying organ with his godfather, Pietro Yon, who was the organist at Saint Patrick's Cathedral. In 1939, he received a scholarship to the Juilliard School, where he studied composition with Bernard Wagenaar.

He received numerous awards and much recognition. He was a prolific composer in a variety of genres, but is perhaps best known for his choral music. Dello Joio's most famous work in the wind ensemble medium is his Fantasies on a Theme by Haydn, which was composed for the Michigan State University Wind Ensemble and has since been performed thousands of times across the world. Dello Joio also wrote several pieces for high school and professional string orchestra, including the difficult piece Choreography: Three Dances for String Orchestra. In 1948 he became associated with the dancer Martha Graham, for whom he wrote several works, including Diversion of Angels and Seraphic Dialogue, a re-composition for chamber orchestra of his Symphony: The Triumph of Saint Joan.

He won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Meditations on Ecclesiastes; first performed at the Juilliard School on April 20, 1956. His Variations, Chaconne and Finale won the New York Critics Circle Award in 1948.

In 1965, Dello Joio received the Emmy Award for the "most outstanding music written for television in the 1964–1965 Season" for his score to the 1964 NBC television special The Louvre. The composer created a five-movement suite for wind band entitled Scenes from The Louvre. The suite was commissioned by Baldwin-Wallace College for their symphonic band, and was premiered on March 13, 1966 with the composer conducting.

He taught at Sarah Lawrence College from 1944 to 1950, and at the Mannes College of Music. He also served as professor and dean at Boston University's College of Fine Arts. In 1978, he retired and moved to Long Island. He donated his personal archive of manuscripts and papers to the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Despite infirmities, Dello Joio remained active as a composer until his final years, continuing to produce chamber, choral, and even orchestral music



Norman Dello Joio worked in the Sprague-Smith studio.

In January of 1976, the original Sprague-Smith Studio — built in 1915–1916 and funded by music students of Mrs. Charles Sprague-Smith of the Veltin School — was destroyed by fire. Redesigned by William Gnade, Sr., a Peterborough builder, the fieldstone structure was rebuilt the same year from the foundation up, reusing the original fieldstone. A few…

Learn more