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David Hamilton, Music Writer and Former Faculty Member, Dies

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Journalist and music critic David P. Hamilton, who taught at Juilliard from 1980 to 1981 and from 1994 to 2005, died on February 19 at age 78. 

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Born in New York City on January 18, 1935, Hamilton received bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Princeton, where he studied with Milton Babbitt (Juilliard faculty 1971-2008), Oliver Strunk, Edward Cone, and Arthur Mendel. He got another master’s from Harvard, where he studied with Walter Piston and Gustave Reese (Juilliard faculty 1964-77). After graduating, Hamilton served as Princeton’s music and record librarian (1960-65) and as an editor of music books at W. W. Norton (1968-74). In addition to Juilliard, where he taught a course on Schoenberg and Stravinsky and a required doctoral course on advanced writing on music, he also taught at the Aspen Music School, Salzburg Seminar, N.Y.U. School of Continuing Education, and the Manhattan School.

According to an Association for Recorded Sound Collections obituary of Hamilton, a turning point in his career came after his two-part series “Tristan in the Thirties” ran in Musical Newsletter in 1976 and 1977. His clearly in-depth knowledge of historic opera broadcasts brought him to the attention of the Metropolitan Opera, which eventually hired him as the producer of its Historic Broadcast releases, a position he held until the series ended in 2008. He also conceived, programmed, and annotated the eight-volume Metropolitan Opera Guild series One Hundred Years of Great Artists at the Met (1985-86). In 1987, The Mapleson Cylinders, a compilation of 1900-04 Met recordings that he produced, was nominated for a best historical performance Grammy. His long and fruitful association with the Met also included the writing of program notes, co-editing the Met Opera Encyclopedia, and contributing to the vaunted opera quiz that accompanied the Met’s weekly radio broadcasts.

Hamilton became the music editor of The Nation in 1968 and was a contributing editor to Opus, Opera Quarterly, and High Fidelity. He also wrote regularly for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Financial Times, and Opera News; contributed to Opera on Record (chapters on Mussorgsky, Cilèa, and Borodin) and The Puccini Companion; and served on the editorial board of the New Harvard Dictionary of Music.

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