Summertime Surprise:
Premru Wins Cleveland Arts Prize

I had no idea at all that I was being considered. I was just absolutely astounded," said Oberlin Professor of Trombone Raymond Premru about the moment last July when he learned he was the winner of the 1997 Cleveland Arts Prize in music. "It's not that you need recognition for your work--you just do your job and do the best you can, but this seemed like recognition for my life's work."

Premru is an accomplished performer and composer whose life's work has spanned many types of music and both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

A native of Elmira, N.Y., Premru graduated from the Eastman School of Music in 1956 and joined the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, where he was bass trombonist for 30 years. Among his compositions are his Concerto for Orchestra, commissioned by Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra in 1976 for the American Bicentennial, and his Second Symphony, commissioned in 1988 by conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Classical was not his only gig, however. Premru is heard on the Beatles' legendary "Sgt. Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band" album, as well as with the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra, Oscar Peterson, Petula Clark, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, and Mel Torme.

In 1987, Premru's career shifted direction. He took what he thought would be a temporary leave from the Philharmonia Orchestra of London to accept a visiting professorship at Eastman. While there, he accepted his current position at Oberlin. "I learned that I really like working with young people," he said.

How did Premru acquire such eclectic tastes in music? He attributes his broad range of expertise to his parents' love of music, and to growing up in New York during the late 1940s and early 1950s. His parents loved classical music, he said; his mother played the piano and his father the violin. He was also influenced by popular music in his youth. "There were lots of good big bands about and lots of changes in jazz, like bebop, coming about at that time," he said.

Premru received his award--a $1,000 cash prize and a medal--at an awards ceremony September 24 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Two other recipients--Diana Tittle for literature, and Kenneth Dingwall for visual arts-- also were honored. Now celebrating its 37th year, the Cleveland Arts Prize is jointly sponsored by the Women's City Club of Cleveland and the Cleveland Women's City Club Foundation.

--by Anne C. Paine

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