Department of Music

Faculty Emeriti

Dr. Hilary Tann, John Howard Payne Professor Emerita

Hilary Tann

Professor Emeritus (1980-2019)
In Memoriam 02.8.2023
Born in Llwynypia, Glamorgan (Wales), she earned her bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Wales, and her M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. She joined the College in 1980 and retired in 2019 as the John Howard Payne Professor of Music Emerita, after chairing the Music Department for 15 years.

Known internationally as a prolific composer whose work evoked a range of natural settings that she loved to visit, from the quiet reverie of the Adirondack forest to the lush valleys of her native Wales. Her work was also heavily influenced by music from Japan.

In a 1986 profile of Tann in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Lawrence Biemiller wrote, “In an age when many take music for granted – half-ignoring Mozart in the car, Prokofiev in the kitchen – Hilary Tann sets her students an example that, in breadth and enthusiasm, makes a strong case for treating music with respect.”

She tirelessly advocated for the construction of Taylor Music Center, spearheading the establishment of the College's first facility dedicated to musical studies. She taught courses in music theory and composition, and was the founder of the Union College Orchestra. In 2020, Kurt Glacy ’90 established the Hugh Allen Wilson & Hilary Tann Annual Music Fund, which provides four to five students per year with scholarships to cover their instrumental or voice lessons.

Recent composer-residencies included the 2011 Eastman School of Music Women in Music Festival, 2013 Women Composers Festival of Hartford, and 2015 Welsh Music Center. Praised for its lyricism (“beautiful, lyrical work” – Classical Music Web) and formal balance (“In the formal balance of this music, there is great beauty …” – Welsh Music), her music was influenced by a strong identification with the natural world. She was a published haiku poet and had a deep interest in the traditional music of Japan which led to private study of the shakuhachi and guest visits to Japan, Korea, and China. Her compositions have been widely performed and recorded by ensembles such as the European Women’s Orchestra, Tenebrae, Lontano, Meininger Trio, Thai Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBCNOW, and KBS Philharmonic in Seoul, Korea.

The National Library of Wales will be the repository for all of Hilary’s works and archive, visible for in-person and online viewing via Hilary Tann Papers
Wales Arts Review - Article remembering Hilary Tann
The Cresset Stone by Hilary Tann