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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, receiving a citation for bravery. He served as an interpreter and entertained French citizens and the troops as pianist. During the Armistice, Collins co-authored Who Can Tell?; the music revue was eventually staged in Paris for audiences that included President Wilson and General Pershing.

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 also continued composing. Two works submitted to a Chicago competition in 1923 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, including the world premieres of all the piano concerti, with Collins performing as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Collins died 1 December 1951, leaving an oeuvre comprised of a dozen major orchestral works (including a symphony, two overtures, and three suites), Daughter of the South (opera, in one act and two scenes), Hymn to the Earth (secular cantata for orchestra, choir, and four solo voices), three piano concerti, several chamber works, twenty songs for voice and piano (four arranged by Verne Reynolds for chamber/string orchestra), and more than a dozen piano solo and duo scores.

Updated by Jon Becker, 2016

The complete recorded anthology of the Music of Edward Joseph Collins was released as a 10-CD set by Albany Records in 2012. Each of the ten CDs is also available individually, as are the tracks from each CD.

All Collins’s compositions were published for sale or rental by Subito Music in 2014.

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

Marin Alsop

Music Director
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Maryland, USA

São Paulo Symphony Orchestra

2015 Season highlights: National Symphony Orchestra in Cuba; Bernstein West Side Story, for Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary
  (first conductor to receive this prestigious American award)


The Guardian’s “Top 100 Women” (celebrating International Women’s Day centenary)


MacArthur Fellow (only conductor to receive this award, recognizing exceptional creative work by USA residents)


Royal Philharmonic Society's Conductor's Award; Gramophone Artist of the Year
  Artist of the Year


Edward Joseph Collins Project
Project Coordinator
Website Design: Duffco
Composer Portrait: Joseph Ciardello
Art Design: PJBF Design