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John Beckwith (born March 9, 1927 in Victoria, British Columbia) is a composer, pianist, author, and teacher. He moved to Toronto in 1945 to study piano with Alberto Guerrero at the Royal Conservatory. He also studied composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger (1950-1951) and has a Mus.B. (1947) and Mus.M. (1961) from the University of Toronto, where he studied with John Weinzweig, among others. He began lecturing part-time at the University of Toronto in 1952, taught full-time from 1955 to 1990, and was dean of the Faculty of Music from 1970 to 1977. He was also the director for the Institute for Canadian Music at the Faculty of Music and held the Jean A. Chalmers professorship in Canadian music.
His over 160 compositions include four operas, orchestral, chamber, solo and choral works, and he has published critical and scholarly articles in Canadian music studies. He was also a staff (1953-1955) and freelance (1955-1965) script-writer and programmer for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) music series, and a critic and columnist for the Toronto Star (1959-1962, 1963-1965).
Beckwith holds five honorary doctorates from Canadian Universities, and received the Canadian Music Council’s annual medal (1972) and the Composer of the Year citation (1984), the Toronto Arts award for music (1995), and the Diplome d’honneur of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (1996). He was named a member of the Order of Canada in 1987.
Beckwith passed away in Toronto, Ontario on December 5, 2022.
Toronto, Ontario ; Victoria, British Columbia
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Revised July 12, 2019.