Martin Halpern

composer, librettist, poet, playwright


Martin Halpern was born in the Bronx, New York on October 3, 1929. He attended P.S. 11, DeWitt Clinton High School, Champlain College and the University of Rochester, where he received his B.A. in English summa cum laude in 1950, with a minor in Music at the Eastman School.  After a year of graduate study at Rochester, he served for two years in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, during which time he completed his work for the M.A. in English. In 1953 he enrolled in the doctoral program at Harvard University, spent the 1956-57 year in Rome, Italy on a Fulbright Scholarship, then returned to Harvard to complete his work for the Ph.D. in English and American Literature in 1959.

In the fall of that year Dr. Halpern was appointed to the English faculty of the University of California at Berkeley where, except for a year in Rome on a Howard Foundation writing fellowship (1962-63), he taught until 1964. Then, after a one-year appointment to the English faculty of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he joined the Theater Arts faculty at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, where he taught playwriting and dramatic literature for twenty-nine years and chaired the department for seven of those years.

During his teaching years Dr. Halpern was a widely published poet and critic of literature and drama, and a widely produced playwright with several awards to his credit. He also continued musical pursuits which had been active during his high school and college years; and on his retirement from the Brandeis faculty in 1994, these became full-time pursuits as he embarked on a second career as a composer.

Since then he has earned an M.A. at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College (1997), where he studied composition with Thea Musgrave and Bruce Saylor; and there have been more than eighty performances of his vocal and chamber works and fifteen productions of his chamber operas in the New York area.  For all these operas he composed the libretto as well as the music.  He has won eleven Meet the Composer grants and ten ASCAP-Plus awards, and from 1997 to 2009 was concerts director of the Long Island Composers' Alliance.

Dr. Halpern has two children from his first marriage to Nancy Homer Halpern: a son Andrew, born in 1960; and a daughter Jessica, born in 1966.  Since 1985 he has been married to Barbara Dale Underwood, and they have a son Robert, born in 1986.

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