Francis Thorne (b. 1922, Bay Shore, N. Y.) graduated from Yale University in 1943 with a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition, where he studied with Paul Hindemith and Richard Donovan. However, uncertain of his talent for composition, Mr. Thorne took up a business career, this following active wartime service in the Navy. However, by 1954 the urge to return to music became overwhelming, and there followed a period of study with Alexei Haieff and Leo Smit, interlarded with jazz piano playing at Hickory House in New York and TV appearances with a jazz trio. Concentration of activity in jazz continued through 1958, and included a major role in founding and producing the Great South Bay Jazz Festival with its commissions of works from Duke Ellington, John Lewis, and Charlie Mingus.
In the fall of 1958, Thorne went to Florence, Italy, for two years of intensive study with David Diamond.
“You'd never guess that Francis Thorne is a powerhouse,” writes musicologist H. Wiley Hitchcock, alluding to Thorne's humble appearance and demeanor, “until you hear him play swing piano and sing Tin Pan Alley classics, or considering his overseeing of the American Composers Orchestra...or listen to one or another of his hundred or so concert-music compositions.”
Among Thorne's official honors are three NEA grants, two MacDowell fellowships, grants from the Ford Foundation, BMI, the American Music Center, Harvard University, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters -- as well as commissions from the New York State Council on the Arts (1974), the Group for Contemporary Music (1975 & 1977), and the Concord String Quartet (1977). In 1988 he was elected to membership in the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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