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Edward Joseph Collins:
An American Composer

omposer and pianist Edward Joseph Collins was born 10 November 1886 in Joliet, Illinois, the youngest of nine children. After early studies in Joliet, be began work with Rudolf Ganz in Chicago. In 1906, he traveled with Ganz to Berlin, where he enrolled in the Hochschule für Musik in performance and composition. Upon graduation, he made a successful concert debut in Berlin, winning positive reviews from several critics.

After Collins returned to the United States in the fall of 1912, he toured several larger eastern cities, again winning strong reviews. After serving as an assistant conductor at the Century Opera Company in New York, he traveled again to Europe , to become an assistant conductor at the Bayreuth Festival, a position cut short by the outbreak of WW I.

During that war, Collins rose from Private to Lieutenant. He served as an interpreter, entertained the troops as pianist, and received a citation for bravery.

Upon return to Chicago, he began a career in teaching, joining the faculty of Chicago Musical College. He later married Frieda Mayer, daughter of Oscar Mayer.

Collins had co-authored Who Can Tell? in Europe near the end of WWI; the operetta was enjoyed in Paris by President Wilson. Collins continued composing on return to the USA. Two compositions submitted to a Chicago competition in 1923 were among the finalists, one the outright winner. Both works attracted the attention of Frederick Stock, Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Stock conducted the first performance of 1914 (Tragic Overture) and, eventually, many of Collins's subsequent orchestral compositions as well.

Collins died 7 December 1951, leaving an oeuvre comprised of ten major orchestral works (including a symphony, two overtures and three suites), three piano concerti, Hymn to the Earth (for orchestra, choir, and four solo voices), several chamber works, 15 songs for voice and piano (four arranged by Verne Reynolds for chamber/string orchestra), and more than a dozen piano solo and duo scores.

…the composer's complex and personal harmonic language, accented by his diverse metrical and rhythmic vocabulary, verily shout “20th century, American, Collins.”

~ Marin Alsop, Conductor

2005 MacArthur Fellow
  (first conductor to receive this prestigious American award)


Classical Brit Award for Best Female Artist


Royal Philharmonic Society's Conductor's Award


  Artist of the Year


Royal Philharmonic
  Society Award
  for outstanding achievement
  in classical music


© ECFAM 2006
Updated 31 January 2006
Edward Joseph Collins Project
Project Coordinator
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Composer Portrait: Joseph Ciardello
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