Douglas Stuart Moore '11
Douglas Stuart Moore '11

Douglas Stuart Moore '11 *

Profession: Composer best known for his American folk operas

Field: Music

Douglas Stuart Moore ’11, American composer and Pulitzer Prize recipient, was born in 1893 to well-to-do parents Stuart Hall and Myra (Drake) Moore, and raised in Cutchogue, Long Island. Moore was exposed to many people distinguished in the arts during his childhood, and early on, he expressed his interest in music and theater.  

After Hotchkiss, and along with one of his best friends, Archibald MacLeish, Moore went on to Yale where he majored in music and philosophy. He wrote what would become one of the famous Yale fight songs, Good Night Harvard. Moore participated in student theatrical performances, and studied with Horatio Parker and D.S. Smith, graduating with a B.A. in 1915. He then received a Bachelors of Music from the Yale School of Music in 1917. Following a stint in the U.S. Navy, (first at the Naval Academy and then sea duty in pursuit of German submarines), Moore enrolled at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger.

Moore became Assistant Curator of Music and Organist at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1921, continuing his studies under Ernest Bloch, then-Musical Director of the Cleveland Institute of Music. Named Curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1922, Moore took to the stage, playing a number of leading roles with the Cleveland Playhouse. In 1924, he won a $1,500 Pulitzer Traveling Scholarship and in 1933, he was selected to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Joining the music faculty of Columbia University in 1926, Moore was promoted to Associate Professor in 1928, and became a full professor in 1940. That same year, he became the department’s Chairman succeeding Daniel Gregory Mason. Several years later, Moore was appointed MacDowell Professor of Music. Through collaboration with Yale classmate Stephen Vincent Benet, the operetta The Headless Horseman was born in 1936. Two years later, Moore and Benet worked together again, this time on a one-act opera, The Devil and Daniel Webster.

In addition to his work teaching at the University, Moore actively sought his own music style and vigorously participated in the musical life of New York City. A 1951 article in the Columbia Alumni News covered Moore’s varied musical achievements, and noted, “But the type of music he creates most easily is American folk opera.” From 1946 to 1952, Moore served six terms as president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He was a member of the board of directors of the American Academy and served as its president from 1960 to 1962.  

Moore’s music has been performed all over the world. His works include The Devil and Daniel Webster (1939), his earliest opera; Pageant of P. T. Barnum (1924) and Moby Dick (1929) for orchestra; operas for children The Headless Horseman (1937) and The Emperor's New Clothes (1949); operas, Giants in the Earth (1951) (for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize), The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956), The Wings of the Dove (1961), and Carrie Nation (1966). Moore also wrote two symphonies (1945, 1948), chamber music pieces, and set music to poetry.

In 1954, Moore, along with Otto Luening and Oliver Daniel founded Composer Recordings, Inc., a non-profit foundation "dedicated to the discovery, distribution, and preservation of the finest in contemporary music representing the diverse inspirations of American culture." Though Moore received a Pulitzer Prize for Giants in the Earth, he is perhaps most remembered for the Ballad of Baby Doe, which premiered in Colorado in 1956, and in a subsequent performance at the New York City Opera featured the debut of legendary soprano Beverly Sills. Moore was the 1946 recipient of The Hotchkiss School’s highest honor, the Alumni Award. He died on July 25, 1969.

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