Hugh Downs is widely known and respected as a broadcast journalist and retired anchorman of 20/20. Less widely known are his accomplishments as a composer of classical music. Some of his work has been recorded by John Bell Young on his album, Prisms, released on Americus; Downs' music shares space on the CD with the works of Alexander Scriabin and Michel Block.
Downs' and Young's collaboration began with the pianist's request to perform Downs' compositions; this led to a concert at which Young played and Downs lectured on his work. Finally Prisms was released.
Downs never studied music formally; he is entirely self-taught. He tried to learn the violin at age five, later tried a little singing, and independently studied Forsythe and Rimsky-Korsakov to learn orchestration and Prout to learn counterpoint. As a young man of 22, recently signed with NBC in Chicago, he started to compose when he was left with long periods of downtime during the workday; he had easy access of a number of grand pianos in the unused studios. Once in a while he got to hear his work performed by the NBC Orchestra, although it was during breaks and not on the air.
Downs' Windows, a symphony first heard in St. Louis, sprang from a request for a cello piece from Yo-Yo Ma. Due to Downs' hectic schedule, the decade was almost over by the time he completed it.