Robert Owens

Robert Owens has composed numerous American song settings, and his songs feature the poetry of writers from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.

Photo: Robert Owens, publicity photo

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About

Born in Denison, Texas, Robert Owens grew up in Berkeley, California. His first piano teacher was his mother, and, by the age of 15, Owens had already composed a piano concerto and premiered the work with the Berkeley Young People’s Symphony Orchestra.

Owens served in the military and followed his service with studies and performances throughout Europe. He returned to the United States in 1957 to accept a position at Albany State College. This year also marks the beginning of his serious compositional output.

After meeting Langston Hughes during this time, Owens began to devote himself to setting Hughes’ poetry to music, with more than 45 settings of Hughes in Owens’ oeuvre today.

While in the United States, Owens stayed connected to his musical colleagues in Europe. Many of his songs, especially his Langston Hughes settings, became popular among singers overseas, especially in Germany.

–Christie Finn Source: Liner Notes to Darryl Taylor’s recording “Fields of Wonder: Songs and Spirituals of Robert Owens” (Albany Records)

Related Information

Recordings

Heart on the Wall

(Robert Owens)

2011

With a Song in My Heart

(H. Leslie Adams, Henry Burleigh, Margaret Bonds, Robert Owens and Cecil Cohen)

2008

Fields of Wonder: Songs of Robert Owens

(Robert Owens)

2006

Dreamer - A Portrait of Langston Hughes

(Margaret Bonds, William Grant Still, Kurt Weill, Henry Burleigh, Robert Owens, John Musto, Ricky Ian Gordon, Howard Swanson, Jean Berger, Erik Santos and Florence Price)

2001

African-American Composers of 20th Century

(Henry Burleigh, Robert Owens, William Grant Still and Traditional)

2000

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

(H. Leslie Adams, Margaret Bonds, Undine Smith Moore, Robert Owens, George Walker, Howard Swanson, Florence Price, Henry Clay Work and Cecil Cohen)

1998

Songs

Sheet Music

Anthology of Art Songs by Black American Composers, Compiled by Willis C. Patterson

Composer(s): H. Leslie Adams, David Baker, Margaret Bonds, Charles Brown, Cecil Cohen, Noel de Costa, Mark Fax, Adolphus C. Hailstork, Eugene Hancock, Thomas Kerr, Jr., Charles Lloyd, Jr., Wendell Logan, Maurice McCall, Dorothy Rudd Moore, Undine Smith Moore, Robert Owens, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Florence Price, Hale Smith, William Grant Still, Howard Swanson, George Walker, Olly Wilson, John Work, Jr.

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Genius Child

Composer(s): Robert Owens

Voice Type: Baritone

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Three Countee Cullen Songs, Op. 27

Composer(s): Robert Owens

Voice Type: High

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