Steven Roy Gerber was born in Washington, D.C. on September 28th, 1948 to Karl and Leona Gerber. Throughout his adolescence and early adulthood he studied piano and composition with composer Robert Parris, who remained a close friend and mentor until Parris’ death in 1999. While attending Haverford College Gerber studied music under Professor John Davison and premiered in his freshman year an atonal piece for piano he had written in high school, the reception of which encouraged him to pursue composition as a career. He spent his junior year of college at Columbia University.
After graduating from Haverford in 1969, Gerber attended Princeton University with a four-year fellowship until 1973. After living briefly in Connecticut, he moved to New York City, where he lived and composed for the majority of his life. As far as musical style, Gerber employed serial composition through the 1970s, influenced by composers such as Milton Babbitt, Joachim Raff, and Yehudi Wyner. He adopted a loose atonal style in the 1980s and tended towards more diatonic and tonal works later in his career, although Gerber himself noted this change was not intentional. He produced numerous works for orchestra, voice, mixed choir, piano, and multiple iterations of chamber and other solo instrumental pieces. His solo vocal and choral works favored the texts from modernist poets such as Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas, and Wallace Stevens, and poetry also influenced his orchestral, piano, and other solo works. In later years he frequently set the songs of William Shakespeare. His chamber works feature unusual combinations such as oboe and guitar. He often wrote on commission, most notably the orchestral work “Fanfare for the Voice of A-M-E-R-I-C-A.” This piece, sometimes referred to as Gerber’s “9/11 piece,” was written for the Voice of America in 2002, premiered in D.C., and later performed as far away as Poland. Gerber’s scores were published by Lauren Keiser and Mobart publishing companies.
Another important element of Steven Gerber’s professional life was the frequency of performances in other countries, most significantly in Russia, where his music was performed multiple times, beginning with a 1990 tour that also included concerts in Moldova and Estonia. His works were also performed across the United States, especially in New York City, Washington D.C., and Maryland. Gerber is known for accompanying singer Christine R. Schadeberg and other musicians on piano when they performed his music in recital. Gerber’s compositions were featured on several CDs, and two labels, Koch International and Chandos, each released a CD of Gerber works in 2000. Throughout his life he collaborated and corresponded frequently with other musical contemporaries such as Yehudi Wyner, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Jan Swafford. Steven Gerber continued to publish music through 2013. He died on May 28th, 2015 of cancer. More information about composer Steven Gerber can be found at his professional website.
Due to Gerber’s connection to Haverford, the college acquired his papers and processed them in the summer of 2018, turning them into a researchable collection called the Steven Gerber papers. The collection contains numerous documents and files related to Steven Gerber’s personal and business endeavors. Most notable for musicologists are the numerous musical sketches, as well as drafts and revisions of his compositions. These copies often include notes and comments written by Gerber or other editors; they offer an interesting look into how pieces evolve over time and as a result of outside input. Gerber’s library of scores (ranging from Orlando de Lasso to Samuel Barber) can provide insight into his interests and inspirations. Gerber’s correspondence with musical contemporaries, articles/interviews related to him, and his own musical writings all offer a look into his thoughts about twentieth/twenty-first century music and the processes of composition and music publishing. Gerber’s performance tours and recognition in Russia and surrounding countries means the collection contains material related to Russian arts and culture. As a scholarly resource, the Steven Gerber papers can inform a researcher about many facets of twentieth-century life and music in America and beyond.
Steven R. Gerber website. http://www.stevengerber.com/
21st Century Music. Michael, Dellaira. “Food for Thought with Steven Gerber.” March 2002. http://www.21st-centurymusic.com/ML210203.pdf