Citation for Thomas Jefferson "T.J." Anderson

Presented by Barry A. G. Greenfield ’56, Trustee, for Doctor of Music

President Hansen, I am honored to present Thomas Jefferson Anderson.

Music has the power to transport and invigorate us, to evoke sorrow and elation, to cross the boundaries of time and culture. In the right hands, music is also a persuasive form of political expression. Today we honor Thomas Jefferson Anderson, whose compositions are at once personal evocations and reflections of the human condition.

T. J. Anderson—composer, educator, fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters—was classically trained as a pianist and violinist; he also took up saxophone, drums, bass, and trumpet, which he played professionally at the age of fourteen. He studied music education and composition in academic settings, but was always surrounded by the jazz, blues, and gospel music of the African American tradition. He counts among his influences Hindemith, Stravinsky, Ellington, and Coltrane, but also the anonymous indigenous musicians of Asia and Africa. This wide-ranging pantheon inspires Maestro Anderson’s concert music, which incorporates and re-imagines western European and African American musical ideas, and often demands considerable imagination and improvisation of its performers. Those compositions that draw from the life stories of slaves, minstrels, abolitionists, and war veterans compel us—through the interplay of sound and words—to confront our collective past and react to it in an honest and emotional way.

For his artistic authenticity, his inspired teaching over many decades, his efforts to gain greater recognition for African American composers, and his call to honor all musical traditions, I present Thomas Jefferson Anderson for the degree Doctor of Music.

President’s conferral:

Thomas Jefferson Anderson, you are a learned and spirited composer, a deft synthesizer of traditions, and an advocate for pluralism in the classical music canon. Therefore, by the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I hereby confer upon you the Degree of Doctor of Music, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities which here and everywhere pertain to this degree.