William Schuman grew up in New York City; as a child he played violin but preferred baseball. He started composing pop songs while in high school and also formed a jazz ensemble at that time. He subsequently wrote about 40 songs for radio and vaudeville with his neighbor Frank Loesser, who went on to fame as a lyricist and composer of Guys and Dolls. Schuman turned to classical music in the 1930s and won the first Pulitzer Prize for music composition in 1942. After a short stint as Director of Publications at Schirmer's music publishing company, he became President of the Juilliard School. He later guided the development of Lincoln Center and served as its president. Schuman was a major power in American music in the mid-20th century, and in 1989 he received the Kennedy Center Honor "for an extraordinary lifetime of contributions to American culture." He enjoyed the highest esteem of his colleagues including Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, who wrote of the "human qualities that flow directly from the man into the works – compassion, fidelity, insight and total honesty."
Chester is based on the third movement of Schuman's New England Triptych , considered to be his most famous work. Written in 1956-57, the tune is based on a 1778 anthem by William Billings which was adopted by the Continental Army and sung around campfires during the American Revolution. Its words express the burning desire for freedom which sustained the colonists through the difficult years of the Revolution. --James Huff 22:07, March 25, 2007 (EDT) (from the program notes of The Claremont Winds, submitted with permission)