Born near Chandler, Oklahoma on 12 February 1898, Roy Harris was a major creative force in the development of an indigenous American style of symphonic composition. His works, which number over 200 in a variety of genres and media, are characterized by broad, often powerfully emotional musical gestures. In his Symphony No. 3 and Folksong Symphony, an expansive orchestral palette and colorful manipulation of diverse folksongs limns a loving portrait of the landscape and culture of the great American West.
Studies at the University of California were followed by sessions with Arthur Farwell who introduced him to the poetry of Walt Whitman and encouraged the development of a personal style. Harris also studied with Charles Demarest, Fannie Dillon, Henry Schoenfeld, Modest Altschuler, and, with Copland's encouragement, Nadia Boulanger, under whose tutelage he wrote a Concerto for piano, clarinet, and string quartet establishing him, in Paris, as one of the premier young American composers.
Among Harris's many honors were the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Medal, a Naumburg Award for his Symphony No. 7, election to the American Institute and Academy of Arts and Letters, and the title of Composer Laureate of the State of California. Teaching posts included those at Princeton, Cornell, Peabody College for Teachers, Indiana University, and UCLA. William Schuman, Peter Schickele, and George Lynn were among his many pupils.