Earl Wentz

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Earl Wentz
Born (1938-03-22)March 22, 1938
Charlotte, North Carolina, United States
Died November 15, 2009(2009-11-15) (aged 71)
Genres Classical, musical theatre, opera, pop standards, sacred
Occupation(s) Composer, pianist, musical director
Instruments Organ, piano
Years active 1950 — 2009
Associated acts American Composer Series, Doraine and Ellis



Earl Wentz (March 22, 1938 – November 15, 2009) was an American pianist, composer, and musical director most noted for his creation in 2000 of the American Composer Series, an ongoing performance series in the cabaret format.

Early years[edit]

Wentz was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. He received his education at Wingate University, Queens College, the University of North Carolina, and through extensive private studies.[1] Among his early teachers was concert pianist Winifred MacBride. He began his professional career at the age of 12, working as a pianist.[1][2] By 15 he was also a professional organist, and thereafter added actor, singer, director, conductor, arranger, composer, and teacher to his impressive résumé.


Wentz composed the 1987 opera A Minuet, based on the play of the same name by Louis N. Parker.[3] His Requiem, a one-hour work for four soloists, full chorus and orchestra, composed in 1989, drew the following comment from the opera star, Teresa Stratas: "God bless you. I loved it! It is a wonderful work. You have a tremendous gift."[4]

The American Composer Series paid tribute to the greatest composers of popular American music on the American scene, particularly those composers associated with Tin Pan Alley and the Great American Songbook.[5] From 2000 to 2009, under the direction of Wentz, the American Composer Series created 15 original revues, many of them returning for multiple runs over the years. Composers saluted in the series include Milton Ager, Harold Arlen, Nacio Herb Brown, Hoagy Carmichael, Sammy Fain, Ray Henderson, Victor Herbert, James V. Monaco, Richard Rodgers, Jule Styne, and Harry Warren.[6] In 2006, the producers of the series broke the format somewhat for two performances to pay tribute to the series’ founder in “An American Composer Series Special Event.”[7]

His credits include guest appearances with the Nashville, Charleston, Glenn Miller, and Jan Garber orchestras and at such varied venues as the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, The Greenbrier resort, and the United Nations. He has been featured on college lyceum programs and community concert series from coast to coast. In the 1960s, Wentz toured widely with singing team Doraine and Ellis as their accompanist.

Beginning in 1993, Wentz was the organist and choirmaster at John Street Methodist Church in New York, the oldest Methodist congregation in America.[8] A noted and highly sought-after teacher, he taught and coached acting and vocal technique privately.

Amongst Wentz's vocal and acting students were: Pat Hingle, Kyle MacLachlan, James Price, Rip Torn, and Amy Wright.[1]

Notable compositions in the years immediately prior to his death included the score for the controversial 1997 Off-Broadway musical The Marital Bliss of Francis and Maxine.[9]

In October 2008 and April 2009, Wentz was guest artist for The Green Salon, a monthly program of the Global Change Foundation.[10]


Wentz died on November 15, 2009, in Charlotte after an "extended illness".[11][12]

Recordings in print[edit]

Among Wentz's CDs currently in print are The Piano Stylings of Earl Wentz: Traditional Christmas Favorites,[13] Vampin' Lady: The Music of Milton Ager, with vocalist Joyce Moody,[14] and Visions of What Used to Be, a collection of popular songs from the World War I era, featuring vocals by Helen Breen.[15]

The first of an anticipated four-volume set of Cole Porter music, What Is This Thing...?: Earl Wentz Plays Love Songs of Cole Porter, was released in March 2012 to great acclaim.[16]

What Is This Thing...? was named as one of the top CDs of 2012.[17]

Continuation of work[edit]

In addition to the anticipated release of several recordings made prior to Wentz's death in 2009, The Earl Wentz and William Watkins Foundation was created in 2012 to continue the work of Earl Wentz. The foundation is "dedicated to the performance and preservation of the ... works ... and to fostering the teaching methods and ideals created and espoused by Earl Wentz for students of the arts, with particular emphasis on music and drama."[18]


  1. ^ a b c [1] Earl Wentz Biography at The American Composer Series Company
  2. ^ Deni, Laura (2005-10-16). "Ragtime Jimmie Celebrates the Music of Monaco". Broadway to Vegas. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
  3. ^ Rich, Maria F., ed. (1987–1988). "New Operas and Premieres" (PDF). Central Opera Service Bulletin (PDF)|format= requires |url= (help). 28. New York, New York: Central Opera Service. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ [3] About the American Composer Series
  6. ^ [4] About The American Composer Series
  7. ^ [5]
  8. ^ [6] John Street United Methodist Church, NYC
  9. ^ Anderson, Jack (1997-09-10). "Wed as a Publicity Stunt, Then Finding Ambiguities". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  10. ^ "Global Change Foundation: Making Markets to Change the World - April 2009 Green Salon". Global Change Foundation Web Site. The Global Change Foundation. April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  11. ^ "Obituaries: Earl Wentz". The Asheville Citizen-Times, November 18, 2009. Accessed December 16, 2009.
  12. ^ [7]The New York Times, November 19, 2009.
  13. ^ [8] Sixpence, Inc.
  14. ^ [9] Vampin' Lady: The Music of Milton Ager
  15. ^ [10] Vocal Spa Productions
  16. ^ "What Is This Thing...?: Earl Wentz Plays Love Songs of Cole Porter". Sixpence, Inc. CDs. Sixpence, Inc. 2006-02-25. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
  17. ^ Lester, Rob (2013-01-17). "Sound Advice: Top Albums of 2012". Talkin' Broadway. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  18. ^ "The Earl Wentz and William Watkins Foundation". The Earl Wentz and William Watkins Foundation. Retrieved 2016-01-01.

External links[edit]