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Stephen Sondheim. Photograph by Michael Le Poer Trench. Image courtesy of George School, Newtown, PA.

Stephen Sondheim, renowned songwriter and composer, has revolutionized modern Broadway theater. Instructed by Oscar Hammerstein and Milton Babbit, Sondheim incorporates logic, mathematics, and an exacting use of language into his compositions. In his first professional work, Sondheim collaborated with legendary composers Leonard Bernstein and Jule Styne, crafting lyrics for the musical scores of West Side Story and Gypsy. In A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Sondheim for the first time acted as both lyricist and composer, an arrangement he prefers.
Heavily integrated within each production, Sondheim's songs are essential elements in both plot and character development. With Company and Sweeny Todd, he introduced "lyrical theater," that is, the integration of spoken and sung dialogue to a point nearing opera. His works concern marriage, divorce, age, sex, the loss of innocence, revenge, betrayal, and culture shock. The Pulitzer Prize winning production Sunday In The Park With George treats artists' dilemmas as truth to creation and the difficulty of mixing art and personal relationships. Sondheim's shows continue to invite audiences to ponder complex emotional and musical themes.

Stephen Sondheim. Photograph by Michael Le Poer Trench. Image courtesy of George School, Newtown, PA.

Education & Community

Education and Training
George School, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 1942-1946
B.A., Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1946-1950
Private study with Oscar Hammerstein II
Advanced study in music composition with Milton Babbit
Apprenticeship at Westport Country Playhouse, Massachusetts, 1950

Teachers and Influences
His father, Herbert Sondheim
Oscar Hammerstein II, family friend, instructed Sondheim in songwriting and staging musical productions
Robert Barrow, Professor of Music Composition at Williams College, taught him music as craft
Milton Babbit, pioneer in electronic composition, mentor in the field of music composition
Worked in collaboration with Leonard Bernstein who wrote lyrics for West Side Story; Jule Styne, who wrote lyrics for Gypsy; Harold Prince; Jim Goldman, Follies; James Lapine, Sunday in the Park with George; Jerome Kern; Richard Rodgers
Influenced by Kabuki theatre, Maurice Ravel, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev, Aaron Copeland, George Gershwin, Benjamin Britten

Connection to Bucks County
When Stephen Sondheim was a child, his family had a summer home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He later spent summers with Oscar and Dorothy Hammerstein in Doylestown.

In Stephen Sondheim's youth, Oscar Hammerstein II was his mentor and Hammerstein's son, James, was his friend.
Sondheim wrote his first musical, By George!, in Bucks County when he was a fifteen-year-old student at George School in Newtown. The musical, which was composed with his fellow students, was a clever and humorous parody of George School life. The musical was critiqued by Oscar Hammerstein II during a long afternoon in Doylestown. Stephen was quoted as saying that he learned more in that afternoon about song writing and musical theater than most people can learn in a lifetime.
Sondheim based his musical, Merrily We Roll Along, on a play of the same name by Bucks County writers George Kaufman and Moss Hart.


Music and Lyrics
West Side Story
, with Leonard Bernstein, 1957
, with Jule Styne, 1959
Do I Hear A Waltz
, with Richard Rodgers, 1965
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
, with Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, 1962
Anyone Can Whistle
, 1964
, 1970
with Jim Goldman, 1971
A Little Night Music
, 1973
, with Leonard Bernstein, 1973
Pacific Overtures
, 1976
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
, 1979
Merrily We Roll Along
, 1981
Sunday in the Park with George
, 1984
Into the Woods
, 1987
, 1991; Passion, 1994

Additional Projects
, music and lyrics
Marry Me a Little
, lyrics
, score and lyrics
The Mad Show
, lyrics
Eight songs for Barbara Striesand's The Broadway Album

Awards & Appointments

Tony Awards
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, 1963
, Best Music, Best Lyrics, 1971
Best Score, 1972
A Little Night Music,
Best Score, 1979
Sweeney Todd
, Best Musical, Best Score, 1979
Into the Woods
, Best Score, 1988

Drama Desk Awards
A Little Night Music
Sweeny Todd
Merrily We Roll Along
Sunday in the Park with George
Into the Woods

New York Drama Critic's Circle Award
Seven awards for Best New Musical

Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Sunday In The Park With George, 1985

Grammy Awards
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences:
, Best Musical Cast Album, 1970
A Little Night Music,
Best Musical Cast Album, 1973
"Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music, Song of the Year, 1975
Sweeney Todd
, Best Musical Cast Album, 1979
Sunday in the Park with George
, Best Musical Cast Album, 1984
Follies in Concert
, Best Musical Cast Album, 1986
Into the Woods
, Best Musical Cast Album, 1988

Selected Other Awards
Extra Academy Lifetime Achievement, Kennedy Center Honors, 1993

Teaching and Professional Appointments
First Visiting Professor, Theater and Drama, Oxford University, England, 1990
Founded the Young Playwright's Festival, New York, New York
Founded Dramatist's Guild's Musical-Theater Development Program

Affiliations and Memberships
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
Writer's Guild of America
Dramatist Guild, President 1973-1981
Author's League of America

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