College Faculty:Related Vocal Studies: American Vocal Literature
American lyric tenor Paul Sperry is that rarity in today’s musical world: a singer dedicated to preserving the song recital. Though his experience in opera extends from Monteverdi through Stockhausen, he continues to devote much of his time to the programming and performance of songs from every country and every period of music.
Born in Chicago, Mr. Sperry started piano lessons at age five, graduated from Harvard College, and continued his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. He worked extensively with such masters of art-song interpretation as Pierre Bernac, Jennie Tourel, and Paul Ulanowsky and studied acting with Stella Adler. This combination of liberal arts education, supreme musicianship, and dramatic flair contributed to what the New York Times called “one of today’s leading song recitalists.” Sperry’s extraordinarily wide repertory includes songs, chamber works, and oratorios in fifteen languages and includes more than fifty works that have been written for him by many of today’s leading composers, both European and American . Among them are Beaser, Bolcom, Cipullo, Druckman, Hagen, Hundley, Larsen, Musto, Paulus, Rands, Talma, Henze, Stockhausen, and Maderna.
Among his recordings are four CDs of American songs for Albany Records; Bernard Rands’s Canti del Sole, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for CRI; and the complete songs of Ives, which he recorded with three other singers for Albany Records. Most recently, he has recorded a CD for Albany of four new song cycles by Tom Cipullo, Daron Hagen, Libby Larsen, and Paul Moravec. Zephyr Records has issued a CD of Poulenc songs with pianist Ian Hobson, as well as their CD entitled Great Composers Love Folksongs Too. Schubert’s Winterreise should be released in the very near future, and they have currently recorded a two-CD boxed set of French mélodies, which should be released next year. Mr. Sperry has edited numerous collections of American songs for G. Schirmer, Peer-Southern, Carl Fischer, and Dover Publications. His book American Encores was issued last year by Oxford University Press.
Today, Mr. Sperry is widely appreciated for his master classes at the University of Illinois, the Eastman School of Music, the Peabody Institute, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the University of Southern California, Harvard, and Yale, among others. Since 1984 he has taught nineteenth- and twentieth-century song repertory and performance at The Juilliard School, and he has created there what may be the country’s only full-year course in American song. He also teaches courses in American song at Manhattan School of Music in New York and in planning and preparing the song recital at Brooklyn College and Conservatory. He served on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School from 1978–2002; founded the vocal program at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan; and served as the director of the latter from 1991 to 1997. In 1987 he became the director of Joy In Singing, an organization dedicated to helping young singers and American composers and fostering the art song. He lives in New York City with his wife, sculptor Ann Sperry. They have three children.