H. Owen Reed

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Herbert Owen Reed (June 17, 1910 – January 6, 2014) was an American composer, conductor and author.


Reed was raised in rural Odessa, Missouri, where his first exposure to music was his father's playing of the old-time fiddle (accompanied by his mother at the piano). He was also attracted to the popular piano music of the 1920s (such as the novelty piano tunes of Zez Confrey), as well as his family's player piano, which played popular tunes. He studied piano with Odessa's only piano teacher, Mrs. Felts, who attempted to interest him in the music of Bach and Beethoven.[citation needed]

In 1937 he enrolled at the Eastman School of Music (studying composition with Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers, conducting with Paul White, musicology with Howard Gleason, and music theory with Allen I. McHose), receiving a Ph.D. in composition in 1939. In 1942, at the Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood), Massachusetts, he studied composition with Bohuslav Martinů, and contemporary music with Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Stanley Chappel. In the summer of 1947, he studied composition with Roy Harris at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and also attended lessons with Arnold Schoenberg.[citation needed]

College teaching[edit]

Reed taught at Michigan State University from 1939 to 1976, and from that year until his death in early 2014 served as a professor emeritus.

Many of Reed's students have gone on to fame as composers and arrangers, including Loris Chobanian, Clare Fischer, David Gillingham, Adolphus Hailstork, and David Maslanka.

Personal life[edit]

Reed was married twice, for nearly fifty years to Esther, who proceeded him in death; and for 31 years to Mary, who traveled the world with him and survived him. He had two daughters, three step-childrem, fifteen grandchildren, and twenty-two great-grandchildren. Reed was an avid fisherman and world traveler. After starting to play jazz in college, he continued beyond his hundredth year, including membership in a Michigan State faculty combo known as the "Geriatric Six."[1]


Just as Béla Bartók investigated the traditional music of Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Turkey, using these as inspirations for his own original works, Reed similarly devoted much study to the traditional music of North America. Many of his works feature material derived from the Mexican, Native American, Anglo-American and African American cultures, blended with contemporary idioms.[citation needed]

Reed's music is published by G. Schirmer, Warner Brothers, Ballerbach Music, Harrock Hall Music, Triplo Press, Allyn & Bacon, Boosey & Hawkes, Edwin A. Fleisher, EMI Mills, Neil A. Kjos, Ludwig and H. O. Reed Music.


In addition to his compositions, Reed published eight books on the subjects of musical composition and music theory. His scores, recordings, correspondence, and other papers have been deposited in the Michigan State University Manuscript Collection, in the Special Collections Unit of the Michigan State University Libraries.



  1. ^ Anon., "H. Owen Reed: Obituary", Lansing State Journal (January 9, 2014).

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