Gillis, Don, American composer; b. Cameron, Mo., June 17, 1912; d. Columbia, S.C., Jan. 10, 1978. He was educated at Tex. Christian Univ. (graduated, 1936) and at North Tex. State Univ. (M.M., 1943). In 1943 he joined NBC in Chicago, and then worked for the network in N.Y. (1944-54), mainly as a producer. In 1967-68 he was chairman of the music dept. at Southern Methodist Univ.; after serving as chairman of fine arts and director of media instruction at Dallas Baptist Coll. (1968-72), he was composer-in-residence and director of the inst. For media arts at the Univ. of S.C. (from 1973). His compositions, clothed in a conservative garb, were often enlivened by a whimsical bent.
DRAMATIC Opera : The Park Avenue Kids (Elkhart, Ind., May 12, 1957); Pep Rally (Interlochen, Mich., Aug. 15, 1957); The Libretto (1958; Norman, Okla., Dec. 1, 1961); The Legend of Star Valley Junction (1961-62; N.Y, Jan. 7, 1969); The Gift of the Magi (Forth Worth, Tex., Dec. 7, 1965); World Premiere (1966-67); The Nazarene (1967-68); Behold the Man (1973). ORCH.: The Woolyworm (1937); Thoughts Provoked on Becoming a Prospective Papa, suite (1937); 10 syms. (1939-67), including Sym. No. 5 1/2, the “Symphony for Fun” (1947); The Panhandle, suite (1937); Intermission—10 Minutes (1940); Prairie Poem (1943); The Alamo (1944); A Short Overture to an Unwritten Opera (1944); To an Unknown Soldier (1945); Rhapsody for Harp and Orch. (1946); Tulsa: A Symphonic Portrait in Oil (1950); Dude Ranch, suite (1967); 2 piano concertos; also band music. CHAMBER : 6 string quartets (1936-47); 3 suites for Woodwind Quintet (1938,1939,1939). OTHER: Vocal works; ballets; instrumental pieces.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire