Daniel M. Brewbaker, distinguished composer and Elgin native, died at the age of 65 on May 14, 2017 at the JourneyCare hospice center in Barrington, Illinois.
The cause of death was glioblastoma multiforme. A long time resident of New York City, Daniel was diagnosed with the disease and operated on at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York in December of 2014. He outlived the initial prognosis by more than a year, allowing him to return to live his final days in his boyhood home in Elgin. He was preceded in death by his father Daniel M. Brewbaker and his mother Ruth C. Brewbaker. His family had at various times been involved in the bakery and restaurant business in Elgin.
Born in 1951 in Elgin, Daniel began his musical education at an early age, studying piano and trumpet and participating in many musical activities both in and out of public school. Following graduation from Elgin High School, where he was elected president of the senior class, he went on to a brilliant academic career, beginning with undergraduate study at the University of Illinois. He then went on to earn Master’s and Doctorate degrees from the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied with such notable composers as Roger Sessions and Vincent Persichetti. While beginning his career as a composer, he was active as an educator, serving on the faculties of the Juilliard School, Hunter College, Queens Colleges (CUNY), and the Westminster Choir College. Further studies took him to Rome and other major European musical centers, where he became acquainted with many of the major composers of the last half-century.
His first composition, Psalm 39, was premiered in 1970 at the University of Illinois, beginning a body of work that over the next decades grew to nearly 60 works, establishing him as an important voice among contemporary American composers. The recipient of numerous commissions both here and abroad, he heard his work performed by many of the world’s leading performers in the foremost musical centers of the world.
In 1995, his Concerto for Cello entitled La Serenissima was premiered by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and has subsequently been recorded by Carter Brey, currently the principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1999, the final movement of the concerto was performed by cellist YoYo Ma on a gala concert by the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, a special recognition for the composer in his hometown.
In 1999, Daniel received the distinction of being the first American composer invited to compose a work for the legendary Kirov Orchestra and Chorus in St. Petersburg, Russia. His composition The Poet received its premiere at the White Nights Festival in June of 1999, led by the distinguished conductor Valery Gergiev.
Daniel’s choral work Cincinnatus Psalm was performed in 2000 by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by James Conlon at the century old May Music Festival in Cincinnati.
In 2004, Daniel received a commission to write a violin concerto for the Russian violinist Vadim Repin, one of the world’s leading virtuosos. The premiere by Repin and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the American Symphony Orchestra League convention in Washington, D. C. in 2005 prompted a critic of the Baltimore Sun to comment on one of the distinctive features of Daniel Brewbaker’s style, his “flair for writing unabashedly beautiful themes.”
Among many other important achievements were a close working relationship with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and its distinguished former conductor Gerard Schwartz, a commission for a string quartet to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Juilliard School, and performances in Dublin of music that reflected Daniel’s lifelong love of Irish culture and folk music.
Among the many awards that he received were the Nadia Boulanger Award at the École des Artes Américaines in Fontainebleau, first prize in the Lilli Boulanger International Music Competition in Paris, and an Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and letters. In 1988 and 1994 he was composer-in-residence at the Camargo Foundation in France and in 1997 served in that capacity at the Spoleto U.S.A. festival in Charleston, S.C. He was for many a years a Fellow at Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., one of the nation’s most distinguished arts colonies, and is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, the International Music Fraternity.
Despite his national and international achievements, Daniel maintained a close connection with his roots in the Fox Valley and the Chicago area. He was especially proud of his election in 2006 into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame. He composed frequently for local musical groups, including the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, the DuPage Chorale, and the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Anima. In 2003, he composed Psalm 51 for the 100th anniversary of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, where his family had been lifelong members. In 2016, Daniel was inducted into the Elgin High School Alumni Hall of Fame.
Daniel Brewbaker’s music reflects his deeply spiritual and somewhat mystical nature, spiritual values that are communicated to the listener with powerful effect. At a time when many composers have striven for novelty and extreme effects, he wrote music that was unashamedly direct and movingly melodic. Despite being steeped in the great traditions of European art music, his music nevertheless managed to reflect his Midwestern roots. Daniel loved people and was always open to helping young musicians. He was interested in the lives of others.
He was preceded in death by his father Daniel M. Brewbaker and his mother Ruth C. Brewbaker.
Daniel is survived by his cousins and many dear friends.
Visitation will be Sunday June 25, 2017 from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home 305 Park Street Elgin, IL 60120. Memorial Service will be at 11:00 am on June 26, 2017 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church 357 Division St. Elgin IL 60120 with a one-hour visitation prior to service at 10:00 am, Rev. Jeffrey G. Mikyska and Rev. Peter Akemann officiating. Interment will follow at Lakewood Memorial Park, 1652 W Lake St (RT 20) Elgin IL 60120. For more information please call 847-741-1128 or visit www.symondsmadisonfuneralhome.com