John Heiss Memorial Concert

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Join us as we celebrate John Heiss's life and legacy at a memorial concert in his honor on October 23, which would have been John's 85th birthday.

About John Heiss:

Dubbed the "Pitch Doctor" by Igor Stravinsky, composer and beloved faculty member John Heiss taught at New England Conservatory for nearly 56 years, inspiring generations of young musicians to love the modernist compositions he championed.

Heiss was appointed to NEC's faculty during the school's 100th anniversary in 1967, having turned down a full-time job at IBM to devote his life to music. As a faculty member in flute, chamber music, composition, music history, and music theory, as well as Director of NEC's Contemporary Ensemble, students and colleagues were drawn to Heiss for his brilliant mind, subject mastery, wide-ranging curiosity, and deep compassion. 
In addition to his profound contributions as a scholar and pedagogue of modernist music, Heiss was a widely celebrated composer. In recognition of his compositions, he was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters Music Prize in 1973 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978. He was commissioned by the Fromm Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, and had works premiered by Boston Musica Viva, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and Speculum Musicae. 
John Heiss was also an accomplished flutist and performed with the Boston Chamber Music Society, Collage New Music, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and many other notable ensembles. 
A mentor, colleague, and friend, Heiss was known for his extraordinary ability to connect with others. He focused his insatiable curiosity and powers of observation on coaching his students, becoming one of NEC's most influential and beloved faculty members. To quote David Loebel, NEC’s Associate Director of Orchestras, “John was truly the beating heart of NEC—an inspiring teacher, a kind, generous soul, and a loving friend and colleague. How lucky we were."

In one of his last acts of generosity to NEC, Heiss funded the John and Arlene Heiss Composer Master Class Fund. This fund will bring celebrated composers to campus to work with NEC students, providing the personal connection between composer and performer that was especially meaningful to him. 

John Heiss shaped the perspectives of countless students and colleagues, and “his” seat in Jordan Hall (K101) will forever be a place of honor for all of us who miss his presence.

Please use this link to view the Tribute Book for John Heiss:

A reception in Brown Hall will follow the concert.

  1. Johann Sebastian Bach | Prelude No. 1 in C Major, BWV 846

    from Das Wohltempierte Klavier, Book 1

  2. OPENING REMARKS | Andrea Kalyn - President, New England Conservatory

  3. John Heiss | Serenade for Flute and Harp (2012)

  4. REMARKS | Laurence Lesser, faculty

  5. Arnold Schoenberg | Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, op. 19

    Leicht, zart
    Sehr langsame ♩

    Rasch, aber leicht
    Etwas rasch
    Sehr langsam

    • Charles Berofsky, piano
  6. György Kurtág | In Memoriam Blum Tamás

    from  Signs, Games and Messages

  7. Igor Stravinsky | The Owl and the Pussy-cat (1966)

    • Josie Larsen, soprano
    • James Lorusso, piano
  8. John Heiss | from Five Songs from James Joyce (1996)

    III. When the shy star goes forth in heaven
    V. The twilight turns from amethyst

    • Emily Siar, soprano
    • Peggy Friedland, flute
    • Dillon Acey, clarinet
    • Emma Burge, violin
    • Jennifer DeVore, cello
    • Ariel Mo, piano
    • Ian Wiese, conductor
  9. John Heiss and Laura Heiss | Early Spring (1977)


    • Laura Arlene Varas, piano
  10. REMARKS | Laura Heiss Varas

  11. John Heiss | Four Short Piano Pieces (1961)


    • Solomon Ge, piano
  12. Alfred S. Newman | from "Pinky"

    This performance is dedicated to Laura Heiss Varas.

  13. John Heiss | Etudes for Solo Flute, op. 20 (1986)

    Birthday Greetings (dedicated to Gunther Schuller)

  14. CLOSING REMARKS | Helen Greenwald, faculty

  15. Charles Ives | from Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord Mass., (1840–60)

    IV. “Thoreau” (after Henry David Thoreau)