Priscilla McLean: Biographical Sketch Professional resume
Youth: Priscilla McLean was born in Fitchburg, MA on May 27, 1942, and spent her early childhood being moved with the family to several locations in New York and Iowa, while her father found temporary jobs managing
laundries for absent soldiers during World War II. No musical instruments were available until she was 11, and the family was given an old piano, delivered through the bedroom window of their second story apartment,
now located back in Fitchburg. Her main interest until then was in writing stories and poetry, and making art works. She instantly took to the piano, and began creating short songs. At three years of lessons she was
working on Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, all three movements, but gave up the lessons to throw herself into the high school music groups at age 14. Learning the Eb alto mellophone and graduating to the baritone horn (soprano tuba), she played in the marching and concert bands and orchestra, along with singing in the high school’s advanced Choraliers and editing the Red and Gray magazine, among other pursuits. She was chosen for the first All-State Chorus, which gave their concert in Hyannis, MA, 1959. She wrote and directed the Class Song of 1959 during graduation. With no financial help for music colleges, she entered Fitchburg State (Teacher’s) College, graduating in 1963 with a Bachelors in Elementary Education, after having written a new official Alma Mater for the college, and music for the Class Song of 1963. On her own she studied the organ at the Episcopal Church in Fitchburg for four years, and wrote incidental music for the college production of Hamlet in 1963 while studying with her mentor, Dr. Richard Kent. Putting herself through college by waitressing every summer, she was accepted at Lowell State College, MA in a two-year special program for a Bachelor’s of Music Education, and she began to compose in earnest. She gave her first (optional) voice and composition recital in 1965, prior to graduation.
Adult: A year’s teaching music to grades 1-6, plus conducting the school band and chorus, and writing arrangements for Christmas pageants in two Lexington, MA schools, along with singing in Boston’s Chorus Pro Music under Alfred Nash Patterson was too large an undertaking for Priscilla McLean, and she ended the school year ill and determined to go for a Masters in Composition at Indiana University. Now, with money from teaching and a bank loan, McLean could devote her life to her one love - composing. In her composition class with Dr. Thomas Beversdorf, she met Barton McLean, who was a doctoral student, and after just a few months, they married in August, 1967. In 1969, with her Masters degree, she and Barton left for South Bend, Indiana, where he taught at Indiana University, South Bend for seven years, and in 1972 received his Doctor of Music (DMA) degree. Priscilla taught choral music at John Adams High School for a year, Mishawaka elementary school: music and art for another year, three years as an associate professor at Indiana University, Kokomo, teaching theory, and three years at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN teaching piano and theory, plus a composer-in-residenceship at Indiana University S.B.
McLean wrote several more traditional pieces during this time, and began to get professional performances with her Masters thesis, VARIATIONS & MOZAICS ON A THEME OF STRAVINSKY, with the Louisville Orchestra recording the work in 1977, after playing it at Kennedy Center.. In 1973, I.U.S.B. acquired a Synthi-100 Synthesizer: 22 oscillators and a digital-to-analog realtime sequencer, under the direction of Barton McLean. With this incentive, she began to create her first major electronic work, DANCE OF DAWN, which took 1 1/2 years, and ended up on a CRI recording shared with Barton McLean’s new work SPIRALS. In 1976 the McLeans moved to Austin, TX for Barton’s new job as Director of the University of Texas Electronic Music Center. During this seven-year period, a major change began to take place. In 1974, the McLeans, who were on the Executive Committee of the American Society of University Composers (now SCI) began a touring ensemble with composers David Cope and Burton Beerman, called The Mix, and voluntarily performed at each person’s university with their new concert of live and taped electronic music. By 1975 the group disbanded, due to travel logistics, since both Cope and Beerman taught in Ohio. The Mix became The McLean Mix, which was already playing concerts, and gradually the tours expanded, so by 1983 Barton could leave the university teaching and plan an insecure life of the touring artist with their ensemble of two.
Petersburgh. In autumn, 1983 they moved to the tiny town of Petersburgh, New York, and have lived there ever since. The one-year experiment of touring became 30 years, and gave them both a vehicle for inventing concerts, composing and adding video later, creating audience-interacting installations, and learning several instruments along with inventing ones to suit the music. This freedom to have several months to compose, and tour during the winter-spring allowed them to add their abiding interest in nature and natural sounds. Priscilla McLean’s BENEATH THE HORIZON III for tuba(s) and recorded whale sounds in 1979 was one of the winning pieces premiered at the Gaudeamus, Holland Music Festival (Melvyn Moore, tubist). It has been quite popular with tubists, and slides-to-video were added in 2016. The most successful McLean Mix production has been the “RAINFOREST” installation, performed for 26 years on every tour. Their RAINFOREST IMAGES CD, their first composing collaboration in 1993, now on YouTube with their images from rainforests they have visited around the world, is the culmination from those installations. Priscilla McLean has been awarded three National Endowment for the Arts Composer Grants, has seen success with her other orchestral music: A MAGIC DWELLS for orchestra and recorded sounds on tape was the winner of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony’s 17th Sigvald Thompson Composition Competition. VOICES OF THE WILD for (at that time) soloist on electronic instruments and orchestra (Priscilla McLean), awarded an NEA grant, was premiered by the Albany Symphony in 1988 and awarded International Rostrum of Composers worldwide radio broadcasts in 1990. 1992 saw a commissioned premiere of EVERYTHING AWAKENING ALERT AND JOYFUL by the Women’s Philharmonic, JoAnn Falletta conducting, and Priscilla McLean, narrator. McLean wrote an autobiography about her unusual travels and life called HANGING OFF THE EDGE: Revelations of a Modern Troubadour, which can be found in many music libraries in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and is available online. It is published by iUniverse (2006). A more extensive set of excerpts from the book can be found here.
Priscilla's latest venture has been the creation of several electroacoustic compositions using the Kyma system and available on YouTube.