The University Record, February 18, 1997

OBITUARY: Ross Lee Finney

Ross Lee Finney, professor emeritus of music and composer-in-residence emeritus, died at his home in Carmel, Calif., Feb. 4. He was 90.

Finney joined the U-M in 1949, and until his retirement in 1974, headed both the Composition Department and a graduate program in composition at the School of Music. He also established the Electronic Music Studios.

After early studies at the University of Minnesota and Carleton College, Finney studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and in Vienna with Alban Berg. Following a year at Harvard in 1928, he joined the faculty of Smith College where he began a series of scholarly publications of baroque works. He also founded the Valley Press, publishing works by American composers.

Paul C. Boylan, dean of the School of Music and Vice Provost for the Arts, notes that Finney was “an extraordinary musician and human being. The remarkable success of his students, and their devotion to him, are ample testament to his achievement as a dedicated, inspiring and challenging teacher. He was a teacher whose own creative activity enriched and informed his students.”

Finney’s students included several prominent composers, including Robert Ashley, William Albright, Leslie Bassett, George Crumb and Roger Reynolds.

A prolific artist, Finney received the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for his “First String Quartet.” Other awards followed, including two Guggenheim fellowships, the Boston Symphony Award, the Brandeis Medal, and election to both the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Finney’s works include eight string quartets, four symphonies, numerous chamber works and song cycles, two stage works, and an unfinished opera, “A Computer Marriage.”

Finney is survived by two sons, Henry and Ross Jr.


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