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Donald E. Dillard

DONALD E. DILLARD was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and received his early education in the Philadelphia Public Schools. His early music training included study at the Settlement Music School with concert pianist, Charles Engel. Upon graduation from high school he was awarded a full Philadelphia Board of Education scholarship to West Chester University, West Chester, PA, where he was a piano and voice major, studying piano with Charles Sprenkle and voice with Frank T. Cheeseman and Fritz Kruger. His graduate studies were done at Westminster Choir College, Princeton, NJ, where he served as graduate teaching assistant in the Music Theory Department, and studied organ with Robert Carwithen and Eugene Roan, group vocal techniques with Daniel Pratt and Frauke Hassemann, and advanced conducting with the late Joseph Flummerfelt. He has also studied advanced handbell techniques with Donald Allured. 

Mr. Dillard has received the Choir Master and Associate certificates from the American Guild of Organists, was voted a member of the Philadelphia Legion of Honor by the Chapel of Four Chaplains, and received the W. Russell Johnson Music Award and an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the National Association of Negro Musicians for his various contributions to music. He is an active composer of over 150 works for chorus, orchestra, instruments, piano, organ and voice, including three symphonic poems, three fully scored cantatas and two oratorios for soloists, chorus and orchestra, as well as his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Concerto for Organ and Orchestra, Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra, three song cycles for solo voice and orchestra, and other orchestral works.

Donald and Yoko Dillard.png

His song-cycle, Earthbound, for mezzo-soprano and orchestra received its premier performance in February 2000 by the Delaware County Symphony Orchestra conducted by Roman Pawlowski, with soloist Shannon Coulter. A work for narrator and orchestra, entitled The Selfish Giant, and based on the Oscar Wilde short story, was premiered with the same orchestra in February 2002. The work makes use of themes drawn from birdsong and includes an audio recording of birdsong in the body of the performance. Mr. Dillard has composed two additional song cycles for soloist and orchestra based on poetry by various female authors, as well as a cycle for tenor and woodwind quintet based on poetry by junior high school students.


His music has been performed throughout the United States, in South America, Japan, and Europe. His oratorio, A Church of One Book, was commissioned by the North Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church in America, and was premiered at Elliot Hall of Music, Purdue University in 1984, with the composer conducting. A subsequent performance of this work in 2002 was held at the Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, with the Morgan State University Concert Choir and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with the composer conducting. Other works for chorus have been performed extensively by the West Chester University Concert Choir, the late Lois Williams, conductor; the Morgan State University Concert Choir, the late Dr. Nathan Carter, director; the Gettysburg Choir and Harrisburg Singers, Kermit Finstad, director; and the Mendelssohn Club Choir of Philadelphia, Alan Harler, director. His piano works have been performed internationally by the late concert pianist Richard Fields. Mr. Dillard’s works have been performed in such venues as the Music Teachers National Association Convention (1991), the Music Educators National Conference Convention (1984), the Pennsylvania State Regional High School Choral Festival (1982), the National Association of Negro Musicians Convention (1999), and in solo recitals at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the Ninety-Second Street “Y” in New York City, and a premier performance of duo-piano work, Toccata, March and Rondo at New York’s Weill Carnegie Recital Hall, featuring Mr. Fields

and Seta Karakashian von Bartesch.

A performance of his Childhood Scenes at New York’s Merkin Hall by pianist Richard Fields was hailed by New York Times critic Allan Kozinn and New York Amsterdam News critic Raoul Abdoul, which the latter critic described as, “humor-filled and well written.” The orchestrated version of Childhood Scenes won the 1994 Unisys African American Composers Forum Competition, which included three subscription concert performances by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Leslie B. Dunner, associate conductor, with a subsequent performance by the Grand Rapids Symphony, under the direction of Catherine Comet. He has received numerous other awards for his compositions, including awards for Versicles (1985), a work for solo flute and piano; A Setting of Three Hymns (1983), for organ solo; and a hymn, “King of Glory, King of Peace” (1978). His commissions include Festival Te Deum (1986), for chorus, organ and brass, written for the Sesquicentennial of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette, IN; Piano Trio (1993), for flute, cello and piano, written for the Huntingdon Trio of Philadelphia; Sonata for Two Flutes and Piano (2014), for Arko; Baroque Suite for Two Violins (2018), for Chag-Hee Lee and Sung Hee Park; Concert Piece for Duo Piano (2018), for pianists Yu-Chi Tai and Ann Wu; an oratorio, The New Jerusalem (1987) for soloists, children’s chorus, mixed chorus and orchestra, written for the Tricentennial of the birth of Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg; and Save The Planet, (2002) for soloists, dramatic speaker, off-stage chorus, children’s chorus, mixed chorus and orchestra, with digital video, written for the AFNA National Education and Research Fund. Other orchestral works have been performed by the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia, the Atlanta Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, and members of the Lafayette Symphony, and Indianapolis Symphony.


Mr. Dillard has been a teacher of music on all levels, including positions as Instructor of Music Theory, Aural Activities and Music Appreciation at West Chester University and at the Academy College of the New Church and Secondary Schools, Bryn Athyn, PA, as well as choral director at Villanova University. He holds membership in the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Delaware Valley Composers, the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, the American Choral Directors Association, is a past member of the Board of Directors of Young Audiences of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Board of Directors of Composer Services, Inc. Recordings of his works have been made on the Golden Crest and CRS labels.

Mr. Dillard is married to pianist Yoko Nagashima-Dillard.

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