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Charles Pizer
Biographical/Career Details

Brief bio':
composer • pianist • entertainer • lyricist
formal education: High School of the Performing Arts (New York City)
& Manhattan School of Music (NYC)
(b. May 26, 1941, NYC)

 A prolific composer, Charles has written nearly 4OOO compositions, including musical theater works, jazz & instrumental pieces, suites, & songs with lyrics. His orchestral suite, Manhattan Impressions (Homage to Gershwin), was recently performed by the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Steve Larsen; & is currently available on compact disc, on the MMC Recordings label (#MMC2032), featuring the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Vladimír Válek. Charles has numerous collaboration credits, as well, supplying the music to the work(s) of other lyricists & playwrights. In a career spanning over thirty–years as a jazz pianist & entertainer, Charles has performed in nightclubs throughout the New York City, Miami, Boston, & San Francisco metropolitan areas, & currently in Northern New York; & has performed with noted celebrities such as Martha Raye, Jimmy Durante, Edie Adams, José Ferrer, & others.

Other activities & achievements include:
  • presented as a guest performing artist in a solo concert at Boston Conservatory of Music

  • commissioned by the Kronos String Quartet for a jazz composition, premiered by them during the University of San Francisco’s Summer Arts Festival

  • a special 2–hour radio program devoted to Charles' music was featured on KPFA–FM (Berkeley, CA)

  • participated in an unique, uninterrupted 90–minute improvisation, broadcast “live” on KPFA–FM Radio
    from the 1750 Arch Street concert hall (Berkeley, CA)

  • featured in concert at the San Jose Museum of Fine Arts

  • performing his original ragtime compositions, he was a guest participant in the Spring Ragtime Music Festival sponsored by the Grand International Ragtime–Jasstime Organization & held at the Edgewood Resort (Alexandria Bay, NY)

  • a special news item about his Watertown Rag was featured on newscasts by CBS affiliate station WWNY–TV (Watertown, NY)

  • music utilized in an on–going series of radio commercial broadcasts for audio equipment

  • archivist, Pizer Archives Music Library, devoted to recordings of concert music of the twentieth century

  • independent music consultant to conductors, performers, broadcasters, researchers, libraries, etc.

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Critical Comments:
     (Homage to Gershwin) (orchestra)

“The freshness of the Gershwin theme is in evidence from the start, with the music of a real find—Charles Pizer (b. 1941). … Pizer’s Manhattan Impressions (1993), subtitled “Homage to Gershwin,” displays his gifts in abundance: a free–flowing but brassy lyricism and an instinct for stick-to-your-ribs melody, with intonations satisfying either casual or serious listening. The work is a suite of all things Gershwin — the blues, the sound of the 30s, the onomatopoeia of urban bustle and energy. Manhattan Impressions is sure to pull you into the collection.”

— Stephen Ellis, Fanfare magazine

“…only Charles Pizer’s enthusiastic and shamelessly worshipful Manhattan Impressions (subtitled “Homage to Gershwin”) really remains within the stylistic confines of the Whitemanesque “metropolitan” school. … Pizer glories in these urbanistic clichés with amiable pizzazz and a total lack of pretension …”

— Paul A. Snook, Fanfare magazine

“The spirit of Gershwin (whose centenary we celebrate this year) hovers over this whole enterprise. Especially enjoyable [is] Charles Pizer’s four-movement ‘pops’ suite, Manhattan Impressions (1993) …”

— Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone magazine

There are points in Charles Pizer's Manhattan Impressions: Homage to Gershwin (1993) where the listener could swear that they are listening to some long-lost Gershwin material possibly cut from Porgy and Bess. The orchestration and harmonies of the middle sections, in particular, seem to come directly off the pages of Gershwin and Grofe. For anyone who wishes that Gershwin had composed more, this is not necessarily a bad thing.[The] American Legacy [compact disc] shows that writing well-crafted, light orchestral music is not a dead art, nor consigned only to Hollywood. Many will no doubt find it encouraging that some contemporary composers still value the ability to write memorable tunes. The workshave harmonic and melodic facets of jazz, popular song, and blues — original American vernacular elements stewed together within the more formal framework of "classical" orchestral music.fortunately, composers such as Pizerseek to carry foward the banner.

— Jim Farrington, Eastman School of Music,
Sonneck Society Bulletin

Performances/Broadcasts include:
  • Manhattan Impressions (Homage to Gershwin)
    performances include those by the 
                • Rockford Symphony Orchestra,
                   Steve Larsen, conductor
    broadcasts include those by:
      KMFA (Austin, TX)
    WNYC (New York, NY)
    WCNY (Syracuse, NY)
    WDPR (Dayton, OH)
    WCVE (Richmond, VA)
    WHIL (Mobile, AL)
    WPRB (Princeton, NJ)
      Nebraska Public Radio Network
      Wisconsin Public Radio Network
      Georgia Public Radio Network
      Beethoven Satellite Network
  • Quickies for Quartet, Kronos String Quartet, University of San Francisco
  • Improvisatory works performed at Boston
    Conservatory of Music (Boston, MA),
    San Jose Museum of Fine Arts (San Jose,
    CA), & 1750 Arch Street (Berkeley, CA)

Awards & Honors include:
  • First Prize & 3 awards, 1991 Sonya Jason Jazz Composition Contest
  • Award, 1991 Billboard Song Contest (jazz)
  • 2 awards, 1990 3rd Annual Songwriters Contest (Songwriters Association of America)
  • Honorary Member, Kappa Gamma Psi Musical Fraternity of America, 1973 induction

Professional Memberships:
  • BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.)
  • Kappa Gamma Psi Fraternity of America —
    Honorary Member

Bibliography includes:
  • "Couple Seeks Local Solitude" — feature article,
    Watertown Daily Times
  • "A Mom & Pop (Music) Operation" — feature article,
    Watertown Daily Times
  • "North Country Music Factory" — feature article,
    Syracuse Sunday Herald–American
  • "…& here are seven more festival newcomers" —
    The International Rag
  • Directory of Library & Information Professionals
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