Features

Doctoral Dissertation

Carma Wadley

Deseret News | Sunday, April 4, 2010

On the other hand, there is a lot of Gates' work out there. "I'm now working on my 875th composition," he says. "I started at age 8, so in 80 years, you have time to do a lot. I've worked in virtually every music medium."

Gates was "famous in the third grade in Palo Alto (Calif.) for the songs I wrote for my friends." At one time he had a girlfriend who played the flute, so he wrote something for her. Later on, there was girlfriend who played the cello. "I got a lot of frank feedback from my friends."

His first commissions were "from a lady down the street. She paid me $3 a song to write music for songs she had written. I did eight of them. Three dollars was a lot of money in those days."

In high school, he played with a local jazz band, and they were paid $5 for arrangements for Big Band era songs.

Still, when it came time to go to college, he was in a bit of a quandary. "My friends were all applying to colleges, a lot to Stanford, which was almost in our backyard. And I said to my father, shouldn't I be thinking about that? He said I should, but the question was where should I go and what would be my major?"

The elder Gates said he knew his son was interested in music, "but, he told me, 'I just don't know who will ever pay you to write and conduct classical music.' I told him, 'I don't know who will pay me, but I feel like I've got to go that direction.' I guess I said it with enough conviction, because he said, 'I don't believe in that direction, but I believe in you. Go for it.' And I did."

When, as a 26-year-old, Gates was commissioned to write the music for a musical celebrating the centennial of the arrival of the pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley, his father came to see "Promised Valley," and "he said he didn't have to ask who would pay me any more. That was a proud moment."

Gates went on to get a bachelor of arts degree "with great distinction" from San Jose State University, a master's degree from Brigham Young University and a doctorate from Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. He was a member of the music faculty and chairman of the department at BYU before he left for conducting positions for the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra (Wisconsin), and the Quincy Symphony and Rockford Symphony Orchestras (Illinois), a career that spanned more than 30 years.

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