Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Former RSO director Crawford Gates dies

By Victor Yehling

SALT LAKE CITY – Crawford Gates, longtime music director for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra and professor emeritus at Beloit College, died at the age of 96 in the early hours of Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Gates joined the Beloit College faculty as professor of music and artist in residence in 1966 – the same year he began a 33-year career with the Beloit Janesville Symphony. He also directed the Quincy Symphony Orchestra from 1969 to 1970.

Four years later, he became the second music director for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and set about filling its seats with professional musicians from the Rockford area.

A prolific composer who wrote his first piece at the age of 8, Gates included his works in the RSO repertoire from time to time. His final performance at the Rockford podium included his own “Overture to Spring.” His composition “Ballad of the Prairie State,” created for the U.S. Bicentennial, was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a concert at the Rockford MetroCentre in 1982.

Gates also was a noted composer of music for the Latter-Day Saints church.

Among his compositions celebrating his faith are the scores to the historical pageant “Promised Valley,” about the Mormon migration to Utah, and the “Hill Cumorah Pageant” depicting the origins of the Mormon faith, Crawford also has composed hymns that appear in Mormon hymnals. He has conducted or composed music for the Utah Symphony, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Ballet West, the Utah Orchestra, and The Oratorio Society of Utah.

Gates’s overall composing achievements have won more than two dozen American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Awards. His catalog of compositions is more than 900 works.

Starting on piano while in third grade, he took up violin the following year and later became proficient in trumpet, clarinet and harp. He composed pieces for his friends to play in the years before he went to college.

As a 16-year-old student at the College of the Pacific, he won a composition contest for his work “Camelot.” Following his service in the Navy during World War II, Gates earned a bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University, a master’s degree at Brigham Young University and a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music.

He taught at BYU before taking up his post at Beloit College, where he taught for more than two decades.

He and his wife Georgia had two sons and two daughters and several great-grandchildren.

The funeral will be held Saturday, June 23, in Salt Lake City.

Photo courtesy of WNIJ News

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