La Violette, Wesley, 1894-1978
- Existence: 1894 - 1978
Wesley La Violette (1894-1978) was an American composer, teacher and author. Born in St. James, Minnesota, but raised in Spokane, Washington, he graduated from Northwestern University in 1917 with a degree in music having completed the four-year program in only two years. He served with the U.S. Army in France during World War I and subsequently attended the Chicago Musical College where he earned a doctorate in music in 1925. He was later appointed dean and head of the department of theory and composition there. La Violette later taught at De Paul University’s School of Music from 1933 to 1940 and served as director of the De Paul University Press– founded for the publication of American music. He also served as president of the Chicago chapter of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) during this time.
La Violette later settled in southern California where he taught music privately and at the Los Angeles Conservatory where he also lectured on philosophy, religion and the arts. He authored, Music and its Makers (1938) and several books on religious mysticism including The Crown of Wisdom (1949) which was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
La Violette composed operas, symphonies and chamber works which has been noted as, “frequently atonal and contrapuntal,” but “nevertheless conservative and straightforward, with broad lines and marked rhythms” (Meckna, 2001).
While not writing in the jazz idiom, some of his most prominent student were jazz musicians including Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, John Graas and Frank Patchen. This has led some to cite La Violette as an influence on the development of west coast jazz. Other students of note include Roger Chapman, Boris Kremenliev, Frank Denke, Dan Morehouse and Frank Asper.