Most Prolific Composer, Rowan Taylor, Dead

LDS Church member Rowan Taylor, officially the most prolific living composer of classical music, died yesterday.

Taylor gained the distinction of being the most prolific living composer in 1995 after completing a stunning 265 symphonies, 46 concertos, 2,502 songs, 250 chamber works and hundreds of other compositions, including opera, choral works, ballets and solo works. He was on the faculty at Los Angeles Pierce College in Woodland Hills, California for 39 years and lived in Whittier, California.

Last year Taylor was one of the participants in the groundbreaking anthology Mormoniana and has been known throughout his career for his support of Mormon classical music. Examples include an oratorio Coriantumr, a sacred cantata, O God, Where Art Thou?, and a full-length pageant, San Bernardino.

He served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War as a Chaplain’s assistant to Rabbi Chaim Potok, now a world-famous author. Potok’s novel Book of Lights, an autobiographical account of his experiences in Korea, includes Taylor as the character Roger Tat. Potok credits Taylor with saving his life at least twice.

Taylor is survived by his wife, Priscilla, eight of his nine children, twenty-four grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

18 thoughts on “Most Prolific Composer, Rowan Taylor, Dead”

  1. Wow! Why haven’t I heard any of this composer’s work? Or have I? I never even heard (read) his name until this thread!


    Posted by Jack

  2. I took a look in searching their extensive database of currently-available classical recordings and didn’t turn up a thing. I just typed in his name, and nothing.

    So where has he been all these years, you think with a catalog of works like that something somewhere would have been recorded or performed. I can’t recall hearing anything by him on classical radio either.  

    Posted by James W Anderson

  3. You are assuming that recordings of his works were released. In fact, the vast majority of all compositions, classical or not, are never recorded.

    You are much more likely to find him in the collections of academic libraries, such as the library at Los Angeles Pierce College where he taught, and at BYU’s HBLL, which I believe has some of his Mormon works.

    Unfortunately, prolific doesn’t mean recorded or even well-known.


    Posted by Kent Larsen

  4. Rowan was the devoted father of two of my best friends. He was a very nice man, and will be missed by all whose lives he touched.

    My condolences to his wife, Priscilla, and all of his children. 

    Posted by Bob Smith

  5. I had the great privilege of studying and performing under Professor Taylor at Pierce College. I can say without fear of hyperbole that he was one of the finest teachers I’ve ever had. Though he was seldom free from poor physical health, he had a near inexhaustible fervour and love of music and was always eager to share his knowledge with his students. My own desire to pursue a degree in music history I owe in large part to him. He will be sorely, sorely missed. But perhaps now his music will get the recognition it deserves. 

    Posted by Jerome McAlister

  6. Prof. Taylor was my piano teacher when I was in junior high and high school. He would teach as his vast family would wander around the house and Priscilla would cook dinner. My mother made an afghan for me during my piano lessons–one square for each lesson. Prof. Taylor’s daughter, the cellist, would always come try to find candy in her purse. Meanwhile, Prof, Taylor was kind, patient, devoted, and an excellent teacher. He arranged for me to take music classes at Pierce College when I was still in high school. He arranged for me to play the college harpsichord. He came to my ballet recital. And he even let me play Simon and Garfunkel along with my classical repertoire. I am very grateful to him for instilling a love of music I carry to this day. I think of him with gratitude whenever I play the piano, especially with my children, a violinist and a cellist. My condolences to his family.  

    Posted by Juliana Jensen

  7. This submission is a little late since Rowan’s passing, but I wanted to submit it, nevertheless, having just found your website.

    Rowan and I served together in Korea in the 50’s. He and I went to Japan on R & R (Rest and Recuperation) for a week. While there Rowan took me to several musical and other cultural performances. It was a great experience during a challenging time for us in Korea. While in Korea, Rowan composed some works and even had the 7th Division band/orchestra perform them. Rowan was indeed the chaplain’s assistant to Rabbi/Chaplain Chaim Potok and served him well.

    My wife and I were blessed to be able to attend his funeral. Essentially all of his children and his wife, Priscilla, paid tribute to Rowan in a musical way in the funeral service. Indeed, a great person!

  8. In addition to everything above, Rowan Taylor was a very GOOD man, and a friend. Also, he had the patience of Jobe! He was, also, a modest man.

    He often appeared at orchestra rehearsals in his Boy Scout uniform. Did you know he was a Scout msster? I’m sure he was. How he had time to do all that he did, I shall never know.

    I played in Rowan Taylor’s West Valley Chamber Orchestra for about 5 years! For a tiny orchestra, we played some great works of classical music, including Carnival of the Animals, and the “Great” Organ Symphony, both by Saint Saens. His wife (and mother of their talented children) played piano and organ for many of the concerts, as did at least two of their children.

    He often performed works by local composers, as well as a large assortment of well-known (ie. Bach and Beethoven) composers. I remember performing the Double Piano Concerto by Poulenc(sp?)!

    We performed for huge audiences, as well as intimate gatherings. I had the honor to play under Rowan Taylor between 1978 and 1983! I remember with fondness, and I shall never forget him. I only recently learned of this loss to us all, young and old alike. (And yes, I did play violin.)

  9. Rowan Taylor was a mentor to me as a composer. He told me that in the 50’s or perhaps 1960’s he was told that he could not write “commercial” music. He could very quickly took interest in my music, told me about Ludis Tonalis (changed my way of perceiving music) and praised my gift, which is not of me, but of God. A great and kindly man he was, and is…..

  10. After watching the annual Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s concert, I was reminded of Rowan Taylor, because just as in Vienna, Rowan liked to have the West Valley Chamber Orchestra play the Radetzky March. I Googled Rowan’s name, and was sad to find that he had passed on.

    I was a violinist in high school at the time (late 1970’s), and the WVCO was a real treasure for me. We were able to perform many great orchestral pieces at various venues, and the experience broadened my musical knowledge tremendously.

    Rowan was, as already has been said, a prince of patience and the kindest of men. He also had a very playful sense of humor. I believe his favorite story was about a wartime chaplain who could not keep the soldiers from getting at the sacramental wine, that is, until he marked the outside of the wine crates with the word “Bibles”.

    I have many fond memories of this very fine man.

  11. I would be most interested to know if any of Rowan Taylor’s works a available on CD. I havenot been able to trace any anywhere and find it difficuLt to believe that there are none!

  12. He was my calligraphy music writing teacher. A very dear and warm man. I was one of the most luckiest music students at Pierce College because he taught me one on one.

  13. When I lived in Alhambra, California, between 1961 and 1964, I joined the Deseret Opera Guild, which Rowan Taylor had created. In his chorus, I sang soprano in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore,” and also in “Gianni Schicci” by Puccini. But my most privileged honor was to be the female lead in his own two-person opera, “The Birthmark,” which was a very difficult 12-tone scale opera. I still have an original copy, in ink, of this opera. I will always cherish it.

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