Born in 1930, Stephen Sondheim is a renowned composer and lyricist with an American origin. Throughout his career, Stephen has scooped numerous awards that have made him very popular in the music industry. The numerous lyrics and scores that inundate the music industry are just but the result of his great work. No wonder Scholars say that if not the greatest, then Sondheim is one of the best artists ever known in the theatre of music. The awards he has scooped range from the Academy Award to the Pulitzer Price.
Sondheim’s Jewish parents, Herbert Sondheim and Etta Janet bore him in the city of New York back in the year 1930. His parents brought him up in Manhattan and divorced later in Pennsylvania. The career of Sondheim’s mother was the design of clothes while his father used to manufacture the same. Since he was the only son in a well-off family, Sondheim suffered so much emotional neglect in his upbringing (King 118).
While in New York, he attended Fieldston School among other schools as George school. While in Fieldston School, Sondheim wrote his first music and later graduated in the year 1940. When Sondheim’s father abandoned him, his mother ill-treated him psychologically; something that Sondheim hated so much that he refused to attend her funeral when she died.
When he was only ten years old, Sondheim met a man who had a great impact in his career. The man was none other than the famous lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II who later became his surrogate father. It is during a ceremony marking one of Hammerstein’s music production centres that Sondheim met Harold Prince who in later years played a major part in directing Sondheim’ shows (Secrest 120).
During the period when he was in George school, Sondheim made a breakthrough in music through a comic that reflected on the happenings in his school. Though greatly appreciated by Sondheim’s peers, Hammerstein did not like the piece and took it as an opportunity to teach him what according to Sondheim, would keep other lyricists learning in their entire lives.
Since that time, Sondheim has been active in the music theatre and this has made him collaborate with successful lyricists like Hal Prince, James Lapine and others. Besides songs, Sondheim has written many books, and anthologies. He has also played a major role in the production of many films and articles that have appeared in television world all over.
Honors and Awards
On his birthday as he turned eighty, Sondheim’s works received a major positive boost; numerous concerts that mainly included Sondheim’s songs and music marked the day (Suskin 697). Some of the original performers were occasioned the birthday party, ready to perform the music and songs that Sondheim wrote.
Some of his work also got a boost in the film industry. Through his lyrics, songs and films, Sondheim has won many coveted awards including the Academy Award and Pulitzer Prize. He has also won several Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards and OBIE award. Sondheim has also received honors like Kennedy Center Honors, the Hutchinson Prize, the Special Award and the Algur H Meadows Award.
At about the age of 40, Sondheim’s life had circulated in public circles. According to King, “Sondheim was a gay, but he did not cohabit with his partner, Peter John the dramatist, until he turned 61’ (310); however, when they came together they stayed together for many years. Sondheim’s practice as a gay did not bother him in any way; he was very free and could not mind discussing that issue with the media.
Stephen Sondheim is a successful dramatist and lyricist. Despite having many challenges in his life ranging from abandonment by his father, financial challenges in his career and a bumpy social life, he managed to scoop several awards, honors and collaborations with other successful lyricists.
King, Robert. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. New York: Yale University Press, 1985.
Secrest, Meryle. Stephen Sondheim: A Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
Suskin, Steven. Opening Night on Broadway: A Critical Quotebook of the Golden Era of the Musical Theatre. New York: Schirmer Books, 1990.