Milton Adolphus

Irving Milton Adolphus (January 27, 1913 – August 16, 1988)[1] was an American pianist and composer.


Born in the Bronx, New York, and educated at Yale University, his classical compositions include over 200 orchestral, vocal and chamber works, among them 13 symphonies and 35 string quartets (including one unnumbered). In 1935 he moved to Philadelphia where he studied composition with Rosario Scalero. He was also a founding member of the American Composers Alliance[2] (of which Aaron Copland was the first president); involved extensively with the Curtis Institute of Music; a board member of the League of Composers; Director of the Philadelphia Music Center[3] and active in the US civil rights movement. He married Elena Watnik (1913–2005),[4] and had a son, Stephen Harris Adolphus.[5]

He was appointed director of the Philadelphia Music Center in 1936,[6] and in 1938 moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he worked for the Department of Labor and Industry of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania until his retirement in West Harwich, where he organized the Chatham Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.[7] He died in Harwich, Massachusetts, on August 16, 1988.


During the 1920s and early 1930s, Adolphus played with many jazz bands and orchestras in the vaudeville circuit in New York's Catskill Mountains and in New York City, including Irving "Ving" Merlin, with whom he composed I Can't Believe It.[8] in 1931. During the 1930s, he was an arranger for Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra and arranged their theme song, "Smoke Rings".

The BMI Foundation distributes the Milton Adolphus Award, which is given every year at New York City's LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts to a student for excellence in jazz improvisation.[9]


  • Symphony No. 8, in B minor (1936)
  • Adagio for solo violin, solo cello and sinfonietta, Op.42
  • Birthday Suite for piano, Op.87
  • Bitter Suite for oboe, 4 clarinets and strings, Op.98 (1955)
  • Bouncettino for viola and, Op.78 (1944)
  • Cape Cod Suite, Op.200
  • David's Dream, Aberration for orchestra, Op.149
  • Dream World for piano, Op.90
  • Elegy, Op.46
  • Elegy for clarinet, horn, violin, viola and cello, Op.81
  • Faith, An Oratorio, Op.123
  • Five Vignettes for Piano, Op.94
  • Four Poems
  • Improvisation for viola and piano, Op.61 (1937)
  • Interlude for cello and chamber orchestra, Op.96
  • Lilacs for medium voice with clarinet and piano, Op.95 (1982)
  • "Opus 93" for clarinet and piano, Op.93
  • "Opus 99" for flute (or clarinet) and piano, Op.99
  • Petits Fours for cello and piano (1960)
  • Prelude and Allegro for string orchestra, Op.51
  • Septet, Op.39
  • Septet in F minor for oboe (or flute), 3 violins, 2 violas, 1 cello, Op.39a
  • Song of the aircraft warning corps (1943)
  • String Octet No.2, Op.175
  • String Quartet No.8 in E Minor, Op.41
  • String Quartet No.10, Op.45
  • String Quartet No.13, Op.63
  • String Quartet No.14, Op.65
  • String Quartet No.15, Op.67
  • String Quartet No.16 "Indian", Op.69
  • String Quartet No.17, Op.70
  • String Quartet No.18, Op.72
  • String Quartet No.20, Op.80
  • String Quartet No.21 "In Ancient Style", Op.84
  • String Quartet No.23, Op.91
  • Suite for string orchestra
  • Suite No.2 for orchestra
  • Tribach for flute, clarinet and piano, Op.101
  • Trio Prosaico for violin, horn and piano, Op.147
  • Ulalume, Op.39b
  • War Sketches
  • Wind Quartet, Op.20


Few Adolphus recordings are currently available; however, Adolphus/Pisk/Gerschefski/McBride, a Composers Recordings, Inc. album from 1965, recorded by the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, was reissued in 2010 by New World Records,[10] and contains Adolphus' Elegy (1936). Additionally, many scores can be ordered from the American Composers Alliance reprint service.


  1. Social Security Death Index; Milton Adolphus; 204-03-9597
  2. | Bulletin: American Composers Alliance, 1959
  3. Liner notes: Music For Orchestra, 1965.
  4. Social Security Death Index; Elena Adolphus; 161-07-0736
  5. "Helene Sashin, Stephen Adolphus". New York Times. Helene Joyce Sashin, a vice president of the NPD Group, a market research company in Port Washington, N.Y., is to be married today to Stephen Harris Adolphus, the dean of the school of general studies at Touro College in New York. Rabbi Charles Lippman is to perform the ceremony at the Manhattan Penthouse. ... Mr. Adolphus is also the vice president for community education at Touro. He graduated from Yale University, from which he also received a master's degree in urban studies. He is the son of Elena Adolphus of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the late Milton Adolphus, a classical composer who was a founding member of the American Composers' Alliance, which supports contemporary works. The bridegroom's previous marriage ended in divorce
  6. Liner notes, CRI LP jacket for Polish National Radio Orchestra album.
  7. Chatham Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; "The Miracle on Main Street". Archived 2008-05-09 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Catalog of copyright entries, 1932, V.26, p. 475, OCLC Number: 6370561.
  9. Milton Adolphus Award, BMI Foundation. Accessed November 30, 2008.
  10. Adolphus/ Pisk/ Gerschefski/ McBride: Orchestral Works.
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