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Pulitzer winner, Hall resident Leslie Bassett dies at 93

Longtime University of Michigan professor earned Pulitzer in 1966

POSTED: February 8, 2016 6:31 p.m.
/Times file photo

Leslie Bassett, center, wrote "Hammered Strings and Whistling Pipes" specifically for the husband-and-wife duo Phillip and Joy Hayner, faculty members at Piedmont College, to perform at a ProMusica Concert Series event in 2011.

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Leslie Bassett, a Pulitzer Prize for music winner who lived in Flowery Branch and Oakwood in his final years, died Thursday at the age of 93.

Bassett won the Pulitzer for music for “Variations for Orchestra,” which premiered in Rome in 1963. He also studied at the American Academy in Rome from 1961-63 as a recipient of the Rome Prize.

He also composed “Echoes from an Invisible World,” which was commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy for the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976.

His daughter, Wendy Bassett Baker, said he didn’t define his music by genre.

“He wanted to make the most beautiful music that he could from his heart and his way of thinking,” she said.

Bassett kept making music after moving to Hall County in 2005, which followed his 40 years as a professor of music composition at the University of Michigan. He wrote “Hammered Strings and Whistling Pipes” specifically for the husband-and-wife duo Phillip and Joy Hayner, faculty members at Piedmont College, to perform at a ProMusica Concert Series event in 2011.

Bassett also wrote the percussion piece “Sound Off!” while living in North Georgia. He and his wife were part of the board for the ProMusica Concert Series.

The couple also enjoyed going to see the Atlanta Symphony.

Bassett was a World War II veteran and was the University of Michigan’s Albert A. Stanley Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Music, as well as the 1984 Henry Russel Lecturer, the university’s highest honor for a senior member of its active faculty.

His former students at Michigan included John Anthony Lennon, composition and theory professor at Emory University; Mark Frode Kilstofte, professor of composition and theory at Furman; and Evan Chambers, composition professor at the University of Michigan.

Bassett is survived by his wife of 66 years, Anita Denniston Bassett, of Oakwood; daughter and son-in-law, Wendy Bratton Baker and Richard Baker III, of Gainesville; and son and daughter-in-law, Noel Leslie and Elizabeth Johnston Bassett, of Orchard Park, N.Y. He is also survived by two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his son Ralph Earle Bassett.

The funeral is at 2 p.m. Saturday at McEver Road United Methodist Church, and the family will receive friends from 3-5 p.m. at the church after the service.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Leslie Bassett Scholarship Fund for Music Composition master’s students at the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre & Dance.  Checks should be sent to: The Leslie Bassett Scholarship Fund, SMTD Development Office, 2005 Baits Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2035.



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