Eldon Rathburn

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Eldon Davis Rathburn CM (21 April 1916 – 31 August 2008) was a Canadian film composer who scored over 250 films during his 30-year tenure at the National Film Board of Canada. Called "the dean of Canadian film composers," Rathburn composed music for documentaries, short films, as well as such feature films as Drylanders (1963), Nobody Waved Good-bye (1964), Waiting for Caroline (1969) and Who Has Seen the Wind (1977). Rathburn was the subject of a 1995 NFB documentary by Louis Hone titled Eldon Rathburn: They Shoot... He Scores.[1]

After his retirement from the NFB in 1976, Rathburn continued to compose, with his work featured at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival.[2]

On April 14, 1999, he was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada.[3] A book on his life and work, authored by James Wright (Carleton University), will be published by the McGill-Queens Press in 2017.[citation needed]


Rathburn received a Licentiate of Music from McGill University in 1937. The following year, he won the Canadian Performing Rights Society Scholarship Competition, and in 1945 he received a coveted Young Artist Award for composition from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. His winning composition, "Symphonette," was performed by the L.A. Philharmonic under the baton of Alfred Wallenstein on 23 March 1945. In L.A. he met and had lessons with Arnold Schoenberg, who had chaired the Young Artist Award adjudication committee. From 1938-39, he studied at the Toronto Conservatory of Music with Healey Willan (composition), Reginald Godden (piano), Charles Peaker (organ), and Leo Smith (harmony).[3]

Personal life[edit]

Rathburn was born in the community of Queenstown, in Queens County, New Brunswick, Canada. He died in Ottawa on 31 August 2008.[2]


  1. ^ Eldon Rathburn: They Shoot... He Scores, NFB.ca
  2. ^ a b Enman, Charles (2008-09-03). "'Dean' of film composers spent 30 years at NFB". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  3. ^ a b "Eldon Rathburn: Biography". Composer Showcase. Canadian Music Centre. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 

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