Crawford Gates

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Crawford Gates Mormon Composer
Courtesy LDS Church News

Crawford Marion Gates is a composer, conductor, and musician. He composed or arranged almost 900 pieces, including the musical score for the Hill Cumorah Pageant, the musical score for "Promised Valley", two hymns in the LDS hymnbook (“Our Savior’s Love” and “Ring Out, Wild Bells”), and two hymns for the LDS Children’s Songbook (“Baptism” and “On a Golden Springtime”). He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He was born on December 29, 1921, in San Francisco, California, and spent most of his childhood in Palo Alto. He was the only child of Gilbert and Leila Adair Crawford. He showed an interest in music, and after playing “My Country ’Tis of Thee” by ear—picking out the melody and a harmony—his mother thought he ought to have lessons. Despite the financial restrictions of the Great Depression, Gates studied piano, violin, and viola. Later he learned to play the clarinet, trumpet, and harp as well. He learned to play classical pieces, but also became a proficient dance band pianist.

Playing instruments was not his passion, however. Even at the young age of eight, he started composing. By the time he was twelve years old he had composed ten pieces. He skipped through four grades of school and graduated at age sixteen. He began his study of music at Stockton Junior College (now College of the Pacific), where he studied music theory under a “brilliant teacher.”[1] By age seventeen, he had composed four orchestral pieces. For his second year of college, he attended San Jose State (now University of California, San Jose).

While serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ to the Eastern States Mission, he was appointed mission music director and led the eight-voice Mormon Male Chorus of Philadelphia. The group auditioned for NBC and was invited to perform on the weekly radio broadcast. After completing his mission in 1942, he entered a Navy officer candidate program and finished his third year of college. He was stationed in North Dakota for training, and while there, he conducted a male chorus and a large dance band. He finished training at Columbia University

Gates was elected by his classmates to be the student conductor of the midshipman choir that was connected to the Protestant services held each Sunday evening in Manhattan. From September of 1944 to the end of the war in August 1945 he was stationed in Pearl Harbor.

After the war, he found employment as an orchestrator for a small thirteen-piece chamber orchestra for KSL radio in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also completed his bachelor’s degree from San Jose State and went on to earn his master’s from Brigham Young University and his PhD from the Eastman School of Music. He studied conducting with Eleazar de Carvahlo at Tanglewood (1957) and Hans Swarowsky of the Vienna State Opera (1967).

Gates was a member of the music faculty at BYU during the summers of 1948 to 1960, then full-time from 1950 to 1966. He was the chair of the music department from 1960 to 1966. He was the music director of BYU Symphony from 1964 to 1966. He was also a professor of music and Artist in Residence at Beloit College in Wisconsin from 1966 to 1989. In addition to being a professor, Gates was also the music director of the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra for thirty-four years (1963–1964 and 1966–1999) where he prepared forty-five orchestral and orchestral-choral arrangements for annual children’s and pops concerts. He served as music director of Quincy Symphony (1969–1970) and the Rockford Symphony (1970–1986) in Illinois.

Maurice Abravanel invited Gates to be Assistant Conductor of the Utah Symphony in 1947. Gates declined the invitation, but agreed twenty-five times to his requests to guest conduct.

He had continuing musical involvement—guest conducting, commissioned compositions, premieres, and recordings—with the Utah Symphony, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Orchestra at Temple Square, Ballet West, Utah Opera, and Oratorio Society of Utah. The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as orchestras in Milwaukee, Rochester, Kansas City, and Dallas have performed his works.

He married Georgia Lauper in 1952. They had four children. She is the sister of Bonnie Goodliffe and Claudia Bushman.

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