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Conrad Susa

Interview Date: July 22, 23, 24 and 29, 2013
Conservatory Affiliation: Composition Faculty
Interviewers: John Bischoff, Marketing Manager
Edited by: Elinor Armer, Tessa Updike and Corey Jamason

Conrad Stephen Susa was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania in 1935. Some of his earliest musical memories include the performance of Latin chants as an altar boy, learning to play the piano and organ, and listening to dramas on the radio.

Conrad studied with Nikolai Lopatnikoff, William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti. During his extensive career Conrad was pianist for the Pittsburgh Symphony, taught music at Lincoln Center in New York City, was the resident composer for the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, and, since 1988, taught composition at the Conservatory. Conrad's works include numerous choral and instrumental works and the operas Transformations and Dangerous Liaisons.

Conrad's oral history interview took place in July of 2013. Conservatory archivist Tessa Updike and marketing manager John Bischoff visited Conrad at his home on Eureka Street for four days, each day conducting and recording approximately two-hour interview sessions. Conrad lived in a bright, welcoming house at the top of a hill in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood. The interview was transcribed by Tessa Updike and her student assistants in the Conservatory's archives. Conrad began the editing process, but upon his death on November 21, 2013, Tessa worked with composition faculty member Elinor Armer to complete the editing.

We at the Conservatory are grateful for the time we had with Conrad. He was an engaging and inspiring teacher, and a witty and charismatic friend and colleague. His presence is missed in our halls. We are pleased to share his stories and memories here.

Read Interview


Session 1: Monday, July 22, 2013
Early Years (Childhood, family, grade school and high school)
Ernest Bloch
Carnegie Tech
New London Dance Festival
Vincent Persichetti

Session 2: Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Regional theater
American composer
Dangerous Liaisons
Black River
Lincoln Center

Session 3: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Julia Child
Globe Theater Composing for theater and opera
San Francisco
Conservatory of Music
Teaching, students, Composition Department

Session 4: Monday, July 29, 2013
Conservatory of Music
Friends and colleagues
Carols and Lullabies
Commitment to composing


Early years

Vincent Persichetti


San Francisco


Oral history interviews are a method of collecting historical information from a narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events. These interviews are primary materials, and by nature reflect the personal opinion of the narrators. As with any primary resource, these interviews are not to be viewed as the final and definitive source for any subject.

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