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Clapp, Philip Greeley
(August 4, 1888–April 9, 1954)

—educator, musician, and composer–wa s born and raised in Boston. He studied composition at Harvard University (B.A. 1908, M.A. 1909, Ph.D. 1911), chiefly with Walter R. Spalding. While at Harvard, Clapp was involved in a wide variety of musical activities, including conducting the Pierian Sodality, which functioned as the Harvard University orchestra and was the largest college orchestra in the United States at the time. Clapp also studied composition and conducting in Europe with Max von Schillings and in Boston with Karl Muck, conductor of the Boston Symphony. Under Muck's guidance, Clapp was given the opportunity to conduct performances with the Boston Symphony of the first and third of his twelve symphonies.

    After graduating from Harvard, Clapp was a teaching fellow at Harvard (1911-1912), then taught at the Middlesex School for Boys (1912-1914), the Gloucester School of Music (1914-1915), and Dartmouth College (1915- 1918). From June to December 1918 Clapp directed the 73rd Coast Artillery Band.

    In 1919 Clapp was appointed director of the State University of Iowa School of Music, a position he held until his death in 1954. Prior to Clapp's arrival in Iowa City, the School of Music had existed only as an unofficial adjunct to the university, so Clapp's first task was to reorganize the school into a regular department. Clapp began by offering an array of academic classes and worked with the university administration to establish a tuition and fee structure. In 1920 Clapp established a permanent University Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus. By 1921 music had become a full-fledged department in the College of Liberal Arts, all music courses had gained full academic recognition, and graduate study had been established as an important mission of the School of Music.

    As a musician and educator, Clapp believed that a sound liberal arts education should include exposure to and appreciation for good music. "Familiarity with good music," Clapp wrote, "breeds not contempt but respect, and–something still more important–eventual self-respect."As a result, his programs and courses in the School of Music placed greater emphasis on breadth of study and less emphasis on strictly technical training. Clapp believed that musical performance by students was a vital component of the learning process, so he encouraged students to present solo recitals and to form chamber music groups. An early and successful experiment pioneered under Clapp's direction was an undergraduate major in composition, established in 1922, which included thorough study of orchestration and required students to produce original compositions. Perhaps Clapp's most wide-reaching innovation at the School of Music was his combined music history and music appreciation course, which was open to all upper division students, both music majors and nonmajors. Beginning in 1931, the class was broadcast over the university's radio station, and Clapp was gratified to receive enthusiastic responses from listeners throughout the state.

    For brilliant performances of the music of Bruckner, the Bruckner Society of America awarded Clapp the Bruckner Medal on February 25, 1940. In 1942 the Bruckner Society also awarded Clapp the Mahler Medal for his outstanding performance of the music of Mahler with the University Symphony Orchestra.

    Clapp composed two operas, twelve symphonies and other orchestral works, 20 songs for solo voice and other vocal music, and several works of chamber music. Clapp believed that a composer's "only chance of composing anything of durable worth is to express his own musical ideas as honestly and clearly as he can."Clapp's compositional style was influenced by a variety of composers, including Liszt, Wagner, Mahler, Bruckner, Strauss, and Debussy. His orchestrations are clear and precise, and most of his works utilize traditional forms.
Sources include Charles Edward Calmer, "Philip Greeley Clapp: The Early Years (1888– 1909)" (master's thesis, University of Iowa, 1981); Charles Edward Calmer, "Philip Greeley Clapp: The Later Years (1909–1954)" (Ph.D. diss., University of Iowa, 1992); and Dorrance Stinchfield White, "A Biography of Dr. Philip Greeley Clapp, Director of Music at the State University of Iowa, 1919–1954" (typescript, Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, 1960).
Contributor: Spencer Howard