Irving Fine was born in Boston, Mass., on 3 December 1914 and first studied piano; he was an admired pianist throughout his career, and was particularly esteemed by colleagues for his sight-reading ability. Fine went to Harvard University, attending the composition and theory classes of Edward Burlingame Hill and Walter Piston; he received his BA in 1937 and his MA a year later; at Harvard he also studied choral conducting with Archibald T. Davidson and, at Tanglewood, orchestral conducting with Serge Koussevitzy. In 1938-39 he attended Nadia Boulanger's composition classes at Fontainebleau, outside Paris, and at Radcliffe College, Cambridge (Mass.).
He also was a Stravinsky epigone.