By any measure, Dr. Burton Beerman has led a remarkable life. As a composer, performer, teacher and founder of musical institutions, his accomplishments are myriad.
In his nearly 40 years at the BGSU College of Musical Arts, he has helped make Bowling Green synonymous with new and experimental music. His own pieces have been performed around the world and have influenced a generation of composers and performance artists.
On Feb. 26, BGSU recognized him as a Distinguished Artist Professor. Conferred by the board of trustees, the designation recognizes professors who have earned national and international recognition through research and publication or creative and artistic achievement.
“Dr. Beerman is truly regarded as an outstanding visionary and artist” by “luminaries who are world-renowned,” said the award review committee.
The honor follows numerous other recognitions from his peers and arts organizations. Among them are the Ohio Governor’s Award for the Arts he received in 2008 and several Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council in previous years. Also in 2008, he won two Cine Awards for the composition for the documentary film “203 Days.” Beerman was awarded the prestigious Barlow Endowment Commission in 2005, an international award designed to encourage and financially support individuals “who demonstrate technical skills and natural gifts for the composition of great music,” according to the endowment.
Beerman’s music, which often addresses social justice issues, spans many media, including chamber and orchestral music, music for documentary film, video art and performance, theatre, dance and interactive real-time electronics. His works have been recognized by more than 30 professional journals and publications, and his activities have been the subject of national and public television network broadcasts.
Beerman grew up in Atlanta, where he was exposed to music ranging from traditional Jewish music he heard in the synagogue to the local gospel and blues. All those influences and more can be found in his compositions.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, with a specialization in composition and clarinet performance, and went on to receive master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan in the same fields.
He began teaching at BGSU in 1970. His interest in progressive forms of music led him to cofound, in 1971, the New Music Ensemble and the Electronic Music and Recording Studio (now the Music Technology and Recording Studios). In 1979, he founded the annual New Music Festival, which has brought outstanding composers and performers of avant-garde music to campus each year for concerts, panels and master classes. From 1999-2007 he was the director of the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music at BGSU.