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Katherine Hoover (born December 2, 1937, in Elkins, West Virginia) is an American composer and flutist. She holds a performer’s certificate in flute and a Bachelor of Music in music theory from the Eastman School of Music, and a Masters in Music from the Manhattan School of Music. Hoover was a faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music for fifteen years and taught flute at the Juilliard Preparatory School. Katherine Hoover has won numerous awards for her compositions, and her music has been hailed as “fresh and individual…dazzlingly crafted.”
Hoover was raised in a “non-musical family.” Her mother was a painter and father was a scientist, and they discouraged her from pursuing music as a career,. However, for Hoover, music was the most important part of her life. She recalls being able to read music as early as four years old, before she could even read words. After her family moved to Philadelphia, Hoover began playing the flute. At age fifteen, she began playing the piano. She received “mediocre music instruction” in high school. Because her parents discouraged her from pursuing a music major, she began her academic studies at the University of Rochester in 1955, but two years later she transferred to the Eastman School of Music where she studied with flutist Joseph Mariano, began studying composition, and graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory and a Performer’s Certificate in Flute. Unfortunately, her composition classes left a bad impression. Hoover comments, “There were no women involved with composition at all. [I got] rather discouraged – being the only woman in my classes, not being paid attention to and so forth.” After graduating from Eastman, Hoover moved to Manhattan and spent the next ten years focusing on performing and teaching.
In the summers of 1960 and 1961, Hoover attended the Yale Summer Session where she studied flute, theory, and composition. During this time, she studied with flutist William Kincaid in Philadelphia. From 1961–1967 Hoover taught flute at the Juilliard Preparatory School as well as a few other small schools including the Third Street Music School. It was here at the Third Street Music School that Hoover had her first positive experience as a composer. She was asked to compose a piece for a school concert, a duet for violins, which was very well received.
In 1969, Hoover began teaching flute and theory at the Manhattan School of Music, a position she held for fifteen years. During her time at Manhattan, Hoover continued her graduate studies and received her Master of Music in Music Theory in 1974. In 1972 Hoover had her first publication of a composition, Three Carols for choir and flute, published by Carl Fischer. Hoover was also a faculty member of the Teachers College, Columbia University from 1986–1989 where she taught flute and composition to graduate students. In 1990, Hoover wrote Kokopeli, a work for solo flute inspired by the Hopi tribe and the great American Southwest. At this time, Hoover began Papagena Press, which was founded to publish her works. Kokopeli was the first publication of Papagena Press and won the National Flute Association’s Newly Published Music Competition in 1991 (Hoover’s second of four NFA Newly Published Music awards).
Katherine Hoover has been very involved with women’s arts organizations and has worked to bring the works of women composers to the public’s notice. In 1977, she began work with the Women’s Inter-Art Center in New York. Here she organized Festivals I, II, and III of Women’s Music which presented music by fifty-five historical and contemporary women composers. In 1996, Hoover was the composer in residence for the Fourth Festival of Women Composers at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Katherine Hoover currently lives with her husband Richard Goodwin in New York where she is still actively composing and still promoting an interest in compositions, historical and contemporary, by women composers.
Katherine Hoover’s compositional career got off to a rather discouraging start. With the combination of parents who did not want her to pursue music and composition teachers who paid little attention to her because she was a woman, it makes sense why Hoover did not publish anything until 1972. Hoover claims to be somewhat “self-taught” as a composer. Although she did have some formal education in composition, her main studies were in music theory, and she says her job as a theory teacher at the Manhattan School was where she learned the most about compositional techniques. Teaching music theory forced her into careful analysis of scores of a variety of music, especially twentieth-century music, which she taught for many years. It was also at the Manhattan School where Hoover spent a great deal of time discovering how people perceive sounds. Hoover has perfect pitch, so studying how other people identify with sounds was helpful as she began to compose.
Hoover’s compositional style has been described as “a romantic, often pictorial atonal style” that is “clear and eloquent [with] moments of startling beauty [emerging] from her sometimes acerbic harmonies.” Three compositional elements stand out as consistent patterns in Hoover’s music: 1) extra-musical references; 2) quotations and manipulations of other composer’s melodies; and 3) use of abstract, original material. Extra-musical references have proven a consistent trend throughout Hoover’s compositions, and Hoover has found inspiration in a wide variety of sources. Three of her compositions for solo flute, Kokopeli, Winter Spirits, and To Greet the Sun, are influenced by the sounds of Native American music and the Hopi tribe of the American Southwest. Eleni: A Greek Tragedy is an orchestral tone poem inspired by Nicholas Gage’s book Eleni. Likewise, Hoover drew inspiration from Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century for her Medieval Suite, originally scored for flute and piano then transcribed by the composer for flute and orchestra. Night Skies, on the other hand, was inspired by a painting Hoover saw that motivated her to spend time examining the wonders of the starry evening sky. Hoover has pulled from many different sources for her compositional ideas, and it is because of these references to extra-musical concepts that her music is often considered pictorial and evocative.
Hoover is also known for her use of musical quotation and adaptation of other composer’s melodies. She then juxtaposes these quotations against her own original material and harmonies. An obvious example of Hoover’s use of musical quotation can be found in Celebration for flute choir, written for her teacher Joseph Mariano’s ninetieth birthday. In Celebration, Hoover juxtaposes her own material against quotations of famous flute works. These quotations are direct and straightforward without any major changes or adaptations to the melodies. But Hoover’s use of quotation is not always this obvious. In the first movement of Medieval Suite, for example, Hoover quotes Virelai No. 17, “Dame, vostre doulz viaire debonair” by Guillaume de Machaut in several different ways. The melody is first heard in fragments and at a different pitch level than the original Virelai. Then a more extended quote of this material is heard at the Virelai’s original pitch level, but these pitches are produced using harmonics overblown at the twelfth. This is just one example of how Hoover manipulates melodies and juxtaposes these alterations against her own material. In this piece alone, there are several more musical quotations, including references to the famous Dies Irae in the final movement “Demon’s Dance.”
Hoover has become quite famous for her compositions for flute. This is natural since she has had quite a varied career as a distinguished flutist. Hoover believes that being an accomplished performer has greatly benefitted her compositional abilities. She says, “It is a great advantage to be good at an instrument, to understand in depth what making music on a high level is about. It encourages respect for your performers and their needs…” While her idiomatic flute writing bears witness to her in-depth knowledge of the instrument, her compositions are certainly not limited to just the flute. Hoover has written for many different instruments and a variety of ensembles. The majority of her output, however, has been chamber works. Hoover explains that this was more of a “pragmatic, not an artistic” decision because “it’s increasingly difficult for composers to get new works programmed by orchestras…The growing tendency of conductors to have several orchestras means that they increasingly leave programming to their boards and to committees. They don’t have time to study new scores or listen to new works…” Despite this challenge, Hoover has written several orchestral works and a handful of concertos.
Perhaps the greatest praise of Katherine Hoover’s ability comes from composer John Corigliano:
- Katherine Hoover is an extraordinary composer. She has a wide and fascinating vocabulary which she uses with enormous skill. Her music is fresh and individual. It is dazzlingly crafted, and will reach an audience as it provides interest to the professional musician. I do not know why her works are not yet being played by the major institutions of this country, but I am sure that she will attain the status she deserves in time. She is just too good not to be recognized, and I predict that her time will come soon.
Honors and awards
National Endowment for the Arts Composer’s Fellowship, 1979
Academy of Arts and Letters Academy Award in Composition, 1994
Outstanding New American Chamber Work, Friedham Contest, 1978/79
New York State Music Teachers’ Association Composer of the Year, 1989
National Flute Association Newly Published Music Competition, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1994
Kokopeli, Op. 43 (1990)
Winter Spirits, Op. 51 (1997)
Reflections, Op. 25 (1982)
To Greet the Sun (2004)
Etudes For Flute (2011)
Flute and piano
Medieval Suite Op. 18 (1981)
Three Sketches (2003)
Eleni: A Greek Tragedy, Op. 36 (1986)
Night Skies, Op. 46 (1992)
Two Sketches, Op. 42 (1989)
Stitch-Te Naku, Op. 47 (1994)
Summer Night, Op. 34 (1985)
Pieces for Piano (1975–83)
Dream Dances (2008)
Thin Ice (2009)
At the Piano (2003)
Echo, Op. 57 (1998)
Psalm 100, Op. 53 (1997)
Songs of Celebration, Op. 29 (1983)
Songs of Joy, Op. 5 (1974)
Psalm 23, Op. 21 (1981)
Three Carols, Op. 1a (1972)
For Peace: Prayer in Time of War (2003)
Peace is the Way (2003)
For a complete list of compositions, please refer to the composition pages on Ms. Hoover's website.
Hoover's work has been widely recorded and is available on CD.
- Smith, Catherine P. "Hoover, Katherine". Grove Music Online.
- Cohen, Aaron (1987). "Hoover, Katherine". International Encyclopedia of Women Composers: 328.
- Begay, Heidi Kay (2009). Finding the Hopi-Indian Traits in Katherine Hoover's Kokopeli and Winter Spirits for Solo Flute.
- "Papagena Press".
- Grimes, E. (1986). "Meet the Composers: Katherine Hoover.". Ear: Magazine of New Music: 20–22.
- Yarrison, Eileen (1996). “The ‘Medieval Suite’ for Flute and Piano by Katherine Hoover: An Examination, Analysis, and Performance Guide”
- Smith, Catherine P. (2006). "Interview with Katherine Hoover". IAWM Journal.
- Gimbel, Allen (1999). "Guide to Records: Hoover". American Record Guide: 123.