John LaMontaine, 93

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer

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John LaMontaine, 93, who was raised in Oak Park, died at his Hollywood, Calif., home on April 29, 2013. Born in Chicago on March 17, 1920, he was raised in Oak Park, graduated from OPRF High School in 1938, and attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., on a four-year scholarship, graduating in 1942. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to '46, and after his Navy service, he started a career as a pianist.

Mr. LaMontaine accompanied two great opera stars from the early 20th century, Mary Garden and Maggie Teyte, in their recitals in the late 1940s. He was also an accompanist for Jessye Norman, including on a national tour. In 1950, he joined the NBC Symphony as a pianist and celesta player under Arturo Toscanini, who mentored him as a composer. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1959 for his First Piano Concerto, opus 9.

On Jan. 19, 1961, his composition, "From Sea to Shining Sea," was the opening overture to John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Concert. This composition was the first ever commissioned to specifically celebrate the inauguration of a U.S. President. On Oct. 10, 1972, his symphony, Wilderness Journal, opus 41, opened the second season of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. and dedicated the Filene Organ. This work was originally scheduled to open the first season at the Kennedy Center. However, the Filene Organ was not ready to play at that time and Leonard Bernstein's Mass was substituted for Wilderness Journal.

In the 1960s, he composed three Christmas pageant operas for the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. The middle one, The Shephardes Playe, was televised nationally on Christmas Eve, 1967, by ABC.

In addition to John LaMontaine's orchestral works, he has composed many scores for solo or small ensembles. Although he composed for many different instruments, his early compositions featured the piano. His later works for the flute or piccolo are very popular. His orchestral works have been performed by most major American orchestras. The conductors of his music include Barenboim, Dorati, Hanson, Krips, Mehta, Mitchell, Munch, Rudel, and Rudolf.

He is an OPRF High School Tradition of Excellence honoree. He is listed with the other honorees near the main entrance of the school.

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