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Samuel Dolin

Samuel Dolin, pianist/composer/teacher, awarded his Doctor of Music degree from the U of T in 1958, and who studied piano with E. Robert Schanitz, composition with John Weinzweig and Ernst Krenek spent most of his life in Toronto. He was a man totally devoted to the cause of music in Canada, a man who with John Weinzweig , Harry Somers and Harry Freedman, moved Canadian music from almost complete obscurity to where it is today and with whom he founded the Canadian League of Composers in 1951. Always the innovator as a composer he explored atonal, serial, chance, electronic, multi media, abstract techniques such as The Golden Section, (translated later by Fibonacci into an arithmetic number series), as well as the Messiaen technique.

He was fascinated with and constantly explored what the new technology had to offer the composer. Writing directly onto the computer, he designed his studio at home so that it was set up with the latest equipment. An instant translation into full scale audio field was available to him at any time should a passage need to be raised for example to a minor second. A touch on the keypad and the necessary change was achieved instantaneously.

As a legacy, in addition to the above (the founding of the Canadian League of Composers in 1951), he designed the electronic studio at the RCM in 1966, where he taught for 56 years. He founded the Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop at his bedside in the ICU unit at Mount Siani Hospital in 1984, colleagues standing around him as he lay there hooked up to countless numbers of machines. He served as President of the League, as Vice President of the International Society of Contemporary Music 1942-1975, Chairman Emeritus of the composition department of the RCM, where he re-instated the A.R.C.T. in composition as we know it today, and artistic director of the Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop. Gary Kulesha, Steven Gellman, Ann Southam, Eric Robertson, John Mills-Cockells are only a handful of Canadian composers in this country he taught and influenced throughout his career.

He literally touched the lives of thousands of students during that 56 year period. In the countless letters and cards I received after his death was the remark repeated again and again: “he gave us a craft, but he also gave us our own voice.” A prolific composer, his works include four full scale symphonies, chamber works, quartets, vocal/choral material, trios, duos, the most beloved of which is the cello and piano duo Variables, written for Elizabeth, our daughter, for whom he researched the rich Brahmsian quality to provide the sound she loves. Commissions were/have been countless: OAC, CBC, individuals, the GGPS. The CMC contains a library of his scores, tapes, vinyls and CD’s he amassed during his lifetime. At the age of 35, he was honoured at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, in 1951 with his Serenade for Strings, the only North American performance given that year. Elizabeth Dolin, Anton Kubleik, Joseph Macerollo, Leslie Kinton and James Anaganson, the CBC and TSO orchestras, Geoffrey Waddington, Walter Susskind, Finald, Czechoslovakia, Canada are among a few of those performers, orchestras, conductors, countries...people and places by whom and were his works performed.

From Gary Kulesha in the 2002 Canadian League of Composers Bulletin: “Sam was a paradigm for all of us as professionals with a profound sense of what it means to be a professional. He believed passionately in Canadian Music, the CMC, the Canadian League of Composers.” From David Jaeger, producer of Two New Hours: “Sam has a deeply felt emotional involvement with his music.” From Pamela Margles: “Sam was the Archetypal Music Master.” From Dr. Peter Simon: “many people think we’ve lost a spiritual leader.”

His highly disciplined artistic style is only part of the legacy. Until 38 days before his death he continued teaching at the RCM at home, planning a triple concerto for cello, piano and violin. He was a gladiator in the ring, a fighter that never once paid attention to the physical deprivations that haunted him at the close of his life. Canada will miss him.

Leslie Dolin, 2003

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Canadian Music Centre