PETER SCHICKELE (b 1935 )
The son of immigrants, Schickele was born in Ames Iowa and raised in Washington D.C. and Fargo, North Dakota. His family was musical and played much chamber music, a practice to which Schickele has attributed his early knowledge of string quartets. Although he played the bassoon—he claimed to have been the only bassoonist in Fargo, North Dakota—he gravitated early to composition. After graduating from Swarthmore in 1957, Schickele studied composition with Roy Harris and Darius Milhaud, both of whom were notable influences, before attending the Juilliard School, where he studied with Vincent Persichetti. Schickele’s parodistic tendencies were apparent early: he performed a humorous concert with conductor Jorge Mester while still a Juilliard student, and in 1965 he performed a similar concert at Town Hall, New York, that introduced the public to P.D.Q Bach. Two years later he formed a “chamber-rock-jazz” trio called Open Window that performed his chamber works. This blending of styles has often resulted in the juxtaposition of seemingly incongruous musical resources, such as the amplified keyboards (piano, organ, and harpsichord) and orchestra for The Fantastic Garden (1968), “rock group” and orchestra for Requiem Mantras (1972), or bluegrass band and orchestra for Far Away from Here (1984). But his grasp on these resources is generally firm and has resulted in Schickele’s receiving honorary doctorates (Swarthmore, 1980; North Dakota State University, 1995), several GRAMMY® awards, and ongoing commissions for new works.
© Jim Lovensheimer