Russell Peck

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Russell Peck was among the better known and more popular twentieth century American composers of orchestral, chamber, and band music. Two of his most often performed compositions were scored for orchestra…
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Russell Peck was among the better known and more popular twentieth century American composers of orchestral, chamber, and band music. Two of his most often performed compositions were scored for orchestra with narrator: The Thrill of the Orchestra (1985) and Playing with Style (1991). Another popular work was the Peace Overture, which is believed to be among the first American classical compositions performed in the People's Republic of China. That performance, by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and one by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra helped to give both the Peace Overture and Peck's music in general currency in some of the more exotic corners of the world. Peck's style was traditional and approachable, melding snappy rhythms, hummable tunes, imaginative orchestration, and popular elements including rock. While Peck achieved wide recognition as a composer, he also worked devotedly with colleague Marshall Gordon in an effort to eliminate world starvation. The two submitted a draft to the U.N. in the 1990s addressing the issue and proposing solutions. Peck's works are often played in the U.S. and abroad and are available on a broad range of recording labels, including Albany Records, Koch International, Klavier Records, Channel Crossings, Telarc, and Summit Records.

Russell Peck was born in Detroit, MI, on January 25, 1945. He studied music at the University of Michigan, earning a doctorate degree in composition. Peck served as a Ford Foundation composer-in-residence in Indianapolis and then briefly taught music. In 1977 he relocated to North Carolina with his wife and remained there for the duration of his career.

Among his first successful large works was The Thrill of the Orchestra, which helped attract attention to Peck. A string of popular compositions followed: The Glory and the Grandeur (concerto for percussion trio and orchestra; 1988), Don't Tread on Me (string orchestra; 1995), Gabriel (orchestra; 1997), and Mozart Escapes (orchestra; 1997).

By the end of century Peck was widely recognized as one of the most popular American composers. He received a commission from a music consortium made up of 39 American orchestras and filled it with his percussion concerto Harmonic Rhythm (2000).

Peck remained active in his final years, right up to the time of his March 2009 death, in fact. At his passing he left unfinished a composition called Dream On. Many of Peck's scores have been available over the years from Pecktackular Music, a music publishing firm founded by Peck.