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Composer, organist, and teacher Derek Healey was born in Wargrave, England in 1936 and studied with Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music, London (1952-1956). He received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Durham in 1961, and continued his studies at graduate summer school at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena (1961-1963, 1966) with Vito Frazzi, Francesco Lavagnino, and Goffredo Petrassi. He also studied with composer Boris Porena in Rome (1962-1963) before moving to Canada in 1969, where he taught at the University of Victoria (1969-1971), University of Toronto (1971-1972), Waterloo Lutheran University (1971-1972), and the University of Guelph (1972-1978). He received his doctorate (D Mus, 1974).
Healey then joined the Department of Music at the University of Oregon in 1978, where he taught until 1988, when he accepted a position at the Royal Air Force (RAF) School of Music in Uxbridge, England. He retired from teaching in 1996 and moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he continues to live with his wife Olive Scholey.
Healey's early compositions are marked by a neo-classic style, before showing atonal and aleatoric influences in the 1960s. His move to Canada in 1969 spurred an interest in ethnic music. Reflecting on his compositional style, Healey writes that:
"The first pieces with which I am satisfied were written in the Neo-Classic style, a style which appealed to me coming from an organist's background; the composers I particularly liked were Hindemith and Milhaud. After some four or five years I became concerned with the strict limitations of classicism and this resulted in a period in Italy where I studied the techniques of the Second Viennese and Post-Webern schools with Boris Porena and Goffredo Petrassi. The techniques of these composers have stayed with me ever since as a continuum on which to place other current interests, the most important of these being ethnic music (N.W. Canadian and other Pacific based musics) and also techniques learnt from electronic music.
"Since I have lived for considerable periods of time in England, Canada and the U.S.A., I am more conscious than most of the effect the environment has upon musical creativity – the effect of which is to divide one's compositions into a number of clearly definable artistic periods. Despite the resulting compartmentalization of one's creative output, I feel that my music has been true to the different artistic worlds in which I have lived – the resulting divergences being an exciting phenomenon of Global Shrinkage and the Immigrant Twentieth Century Composer" (Canadian Music Centre biography).
Victoria, British Columbia
Brooklyn, New York
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Created November 12, 2020. Updated March 31, 2023.
Clifford Ford, Evan Ware, "Derek Healey," The Canadian Encyclopedia. Last edited December 16, 2013.
"Derek Healey, Composer". Website. http://derekhealey.com/. Accessed March 31, 2023.
Clifford Ford, "Healey, Derek," Grove Music Online. Last edited July 10, 2012.