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Leonard Raver

Leonard Raver was born in Wenatchee, WA in 1927. A talented organist for the New York Philharmonic, Leonard was a vocal advocate for contemporary music, particularly that incorporating the organ. He created dozens of influential works in a range of modern styles, many of which mixed the organ with electronic sounds and percussion instruments (a style he dubbed “Organizm concerts”).

Leonard’s love of the organ began when he was a young child attending church in Tacoma, WA. By the age of 6, he had decided that he wanted to learn the organ, but he started his musical career learning the piano at the insistence of his music teacher. It was not until ten years later, at the age of 16, that he was allowed to switch to the organ. Within six months, though, Leonard had a job playing the organ at Epworth Lesourd Methodist Church, an early indication of his later musical success.

A Fulbright scholar and graduate of the University of Puget Sound, Leonard spent much of his life traveling around the world commissioning and performing important new pieces for the organ, including David Diamond’s Symphony for Organ, Vincent Persichetti’s “Auden Variations,” and Ned Rorem’s “Quaker Reader” and "Organbook.” By the mid-1970s, his talent was recognized by the New York Philharmonic, with whom Leonard started to perform. He eventually joined their roster in 1977.

Committed to sharing his talent and contemporary style with upcoming musicians, Leonard was also a teacher, lecturing at Yale, Julliard, Penn State, and the University of Hartford during the 1970s and 1980s. Indeed, shortly before he died, Leonard established the Leonard Raver Scholarship Fund at the University of Puget Sound in honor of the strong early education he received there as an undergraduate in the music department.

Leonard died of AIDS-related complications while at home in New York on January 29th, 1992, at the age of 62.

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