Spencer Huffman (1921-2005)

Composer, Music Teacher

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Spencer Huffman showed early signs of remarkable musical gifts. At a young age, he taught himself to read music, and began composing orchestral pieces. He received a scholarship in composition to the Johns Hopkins Peabody Conservatory in 1939. 

In 1940 he was awarded the Boise Memorial composition fellowship and also studied at Tanglewood under Aaron Copland and Bohuslav Martinu. According to a 1946 article in the Baltimore Sun, "Copland thought so well of Huffman's talents that he gave him a letter to Nadia Boulanger, teacher of many leading composers. Miss Boulanger promptly gave the young man his third fellowship in less than two years -- a course of study under her own instruction." 

After service in WWII, Huffman resumed his studies at Peabody, graduating in 1947 with the coveted Artist's Diploma, then the highest honor awarded by the conservatory in harmony and composition. 

Huffman was a member of the Peabody composition faculty from 1950 to 1956. Following his tenure, he continued to write music and teach composition privately until his death in 2005. 

Over the more than 60 years that he actively composed, Huffman produced an extraordinary library, including 10 symphonies, an opera, several works for chorus and orchestra, six piano concertos, violin, viola and cello concertos, 31 string quartets, 21 piano sonatas, 70 songs, many chamber pieces, and completed a life-long goal of writing a sonata for every instrument in the concert band. Later works reflect his great admiration for the musical legacy of Brahms. 

Huffman’s major orchestral works have been premiered by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Army Band at New York’s Carnegie Hall. His ninth symphony was commissioned by the National Gallery Orchestra in Washington, DC.