Amherst College mourns the passing of Lewis Spratlan, the Peter R. Pouncey Professor of Music, Emeritus, on Feb. 9, 2023. He served on the Amherst faculty for 36 years, joining the music department in 1970 and retiring in 2006.
Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein wrote the following in a Feb. 14 email to faculty and staff:
Lew’s colleagues in the music department describe him as a consummate musician and generous colleague who inspired generations of young composers to find their own creative voice. “Lew’s unbounded energy for creativity and teaching leaves us with a large and distinguished catalog of musical work stretching over six decades, and a tradition of thoughtful, hands-on music making within our department,” they said. In addition to being an inspiring and beloved teacher, Lew was the founding conductor of the Amherst-Mount Holyoke Orchestra, a chamber music coach, and the conductor and acting director of the Amherst College Orchestra for many years. In addition, during his time at the college, he was known as the best oboe player in the Valley.
An accomplished and widely recognized composer on the international stage, Lew received the Pulitzer Prize in music in 2000 for a concert version of Act Two of his three-act opera titled Life Is A Dream, which was based on a play by the seventeenth-century Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca. The late Jim Maraniss, Professor of Spanish, Emeritus, and Lew’s good friend and colleague at Amherst, wrote the libretto. The opera was premiered in its entirety in 2010 by Santa Fe Opera. Lew also collaborated on other works with other Amherst faculty, including Jenny Kallick, Professor of Music, Emerita, and Connie Congdon, Playwright-in-Residence, Emerita. Lew’s other honors include the Charles Ives Opera Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as Guggenheim, Rockefeller, National Endowment for the Arts, and MacDowell Fellowships, among many other accolades. His music continues to be performed regularly around the world.
Lew earned undergraduate (in composition and theory of music) and graduate degrees (in composition) from Yale University and taught and conducted at Penn State University, Tanglewood, and the Yale Summer School of Music.
For more information, see this obituary published in The Boston Globe and this obituary in The New York Times.
The Amherst College community and general public are invited to a memorial celebration on May 7 at 3 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst. The program will include remembrances and live performances of Spratlan's compositions featuring Elizabeth Chang, Matt Haimovitz, Charlotte Malin, Nadia Shpachenko and Jiayan Sun.