Born in New York City, Thompson studied at Harvard University, earning both his Bachelor and Master degrees there. Upon graduating from Harvard in 1922, he won the Prix de Rome and studied in Italy.
Thompson was a devoted music educator, and his studies in music education discovered the value of a liberal arts approach to music education instead of strict manual (lessons and performance oriented) training. His results and subsequent writings about music education influenced changes in curricula around the country, including his alma mater, Harvard.
Thompson was a dedicated teacher as well and taught at universities throughout the country, including Harvard from 1948 to 1965.
He is most well-known for his choral music, which has achieved popularity among both singers and audiences. He set both sacred and secular texts; among his secular settings is Frostiana, which sets several texts of Robert Frost. Another secular choral work of his, Americana, sets texts from the American press.
Thompson’s compositions are essentially diatonic and tonal, though he sometimes strayed into modality. American folk songs and jazz have made their way into some of his compositions.
Source: Fredric Woodbridge Wilson’s article in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
American Anthem: Songs and Hymns
(Aaron Copland, John Rosamond Johnson, and Randall Thompson)
Songs My Mother Taught Me
(Vittorio Giannini, Richard Hageman, John Jacob Niles, Oscar Rasbach, Charles Gilbert Spross, Randall Thompson)