COMPOSER AARON Copland visited Buffalo many times during his illustrious career. His visits here over the past three decades to guest-conduct the Buffalo Philharmonic or attend the University at Buffalo's various new-music festivals were always accompanied by autograph sessions at area record shops, concerts in his honor and high-level receptions.
But Copland's greatest contribution to musical life on the Niagara Frontier came in 1957, when he accepted a bid from the late Cameron Baird to become the first Slee Lecturer at the fledgling music department of what was then the University of Buffalo, a chair endowed by the late Mr. and Mrs. Frederick C. Slee.
Baird said Copland initially resisted accepting the chair because he was so far behind in fulfilling commissions for new compositions.
"He finally felt, however, that helping a new music department could be a challenge to him to promote the cause of American music," Baird said.
Indeed, Copland's presence as first occupant of the Slee chair was an immeasurable help to the university later in attracting other composers of the caliber of Carlos Chavez, Ned Rorem and Leon Kirchner to that post, and to its later developing into the permanent chair first held by the late Morton Feldman.