by Frederick D. Fairchild
(b. May 15, 1921; d. July 10, 1986)
Paul Price was a native of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. After his early percussion studies, he attended the New England Conservatory of Music where his exposure to the works of Varese and contact with visiting artist Henry Cowell aroused his interest in percussion ensemble music. Upon receiving his diploma in 1942, he spent four years in the U.S. Army after which he resumed his musical career, taking the position of First Percussionist and xylophone soloist with Frank Simon's Band (1946 to 1949). He earned his B.Mus (1948) and M.Mus (1949) from Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
Price taught percussion at the University of Illinois from 1949 until 1956, establishing the first accredited college percussion ensemble course. He championed the percussion works of Cowell, Varese, Roldan, Harrison, Cage, Antheil, and others are created a performing environment that stimulated an extraordinary interest in composition for percussion both among established composers and among his own students. Price's influential publishing firm, Music for Percussion, was founded during this time.
In 1955 he moved to the Eastern United States, performing, conducting, and publishing while holding teaching positions at Boston University, Ithaca College, Newark State College, and beginning in 1957 and continuing until his death in 1986, the Manhattan School of Music. He had a remarkable ability to attract talented students, and the Manhattan Percussion Ensemble and his own Paul Price Percussion Ensemble received international acclaim. He premiered hundreds of compositions and made numerous recordings both as player and conductor. Composers eagerly sent him new works, hoping for performance or desiring publication by one of his two publishing companies, Music for Percussion and Paul Price Publications.
Paul Price wrote two textbooks, Beginning Snare Drum Method and Techniques for Playing Triangle, Tambourine, and Castagnettes, and numerous percussion compositions, mostly off an educational nature. He was well known as a lecturer, reviewer, and author of journal articles. In 1975 the Percussive Arts Society inducted him into its Hall of Fame, and in 1977, the National Association of American Composers and Conductors awarded him a citation for his "outstanding contribution to American music." These two awards well describe Paul Price's importance to contemporary percussion. It is doubtful if the percussion ensemble would have achieved its present status and level of attainment without the influence he had on its literature and performance practices.