Walter Bruce May, born 28 September 1931, Springfield, Missouri. Parents were Bruce Foster May and Lily Stephenson May. Educated in Springfield public schools. Was a music major in high school. Studied piano from the age of five and the violin from the age of eight. Can also play harp, viola, clarinet and bass clarinet.
Played first commercial orchestra job as a harpist in 1947.
Graduated from Southwest Missouri State University in 1951. Majors were music, music education, modern language education and French. Also received the Performer’s Certificate in Organ. While at SMSU, I taught string techniques for a whole term at the age of 16 due an emergency in the life of the regular string teacher. I composed several works for the orchestra and choral forces. Especially interesting was the incidental music to Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, which was a college production. My composition teachers were Kenneth Dustman and Relly Raffman. My organ teacher was Ilah Dixon.
I began work as a church organist at the age of thirteen. I got my first "steady" organ job at sixteen and have continuously been employed as an organist (sometimes choirmaster, too) in churches and synagogues.
Received a Fulbright Grant for study at the Paris Conservatoire. Enrolled in 1951. Studied composition with Darius Milhaud and theory with Georges Dandelot. Did well in the annual competition for recognition and was awarded a Fulbright Prize Award for a second year. This year Georges Dandelot became my composition teacher because Milhaud was spending this year in the USA. Wrote several student works which were performed in Conservatory recitals including a Quintet for String Quartet and Clarinet.
While in Paris, I joined the Orchestre Symphonique du Centre Artistique des Jeunes, which was sponsored by the Zionist Federation of Paris. I joined as a violist, but was soon involved with making arrangements for the orchestra, conducting some rehearsals, and writing original pieces for the orchestra. I also coached the tenor section of a mixed chorus also sponsored by the Zionist Federation. I also transliterated the Hebrew texts into the Latin alphabet so that the members of the chorale could sing them.
I made two visits to Israel, once as a tourist, and the following summer (1953) as an arranger for the Chamber Theatre of Tel-Aviv. This arrangement fell apart because of funding problems in the Theatre so I joined a collective farm (kibbutz) where I spent several months doing general work on the farm, and ending my stay there by orchestrating a musical which was being composed by the resident composer, Bonia Shur, who now lives in Cincinnati. The show was played by the Kol-Israel (voice of Israel) orchestra from Jerusalem.
In November, 1953, I joined the US Army to fulfil my military service obligation. I served as a bandsman and especially as an organist and choir director. I played viola in local orchestras and was a ringer for the Savannah (GA) Symphony during this time. I married Mary Eleanor Bullard in 1955 who was a ’cellist in some of the local orchestras in which I played.
I joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, in September 1955. I taught string techniques, theory, composition, piano class, organ lessons and music history. I moved through the ranks from Instructor to Assistant Professor to Associate Professor. While in Eau Claire I composed many works including my oratorio "Job" and my two symphonies. After the summer of 1957 spent at Indiana University, I continued to study composition at the University of Minnesota with Paul Fetler. I studied one term with Dominick Argento during one of Fetler’s sabbaticals. In Eau Claire, my seven children were born. I was organist at First Baptist Church, organist/choirmaster at Christ Church Cathedral, and organist at First Lutheran Church during my twelve years in Eau Claire.
I received the Doctor of Music degree from the University of Toronto in 1966. In 1967 I took a position as Chairman of the Music Department at the State University of New York, College at Cortland, New York. Two years later, I joined the faculty at Eisenhower College, Seneca Falls, New York. I remained there for six years. During this time I was organist of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Rochester, NY and, later, organist at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Fairport, NY. I was also choirmaster at Temple Beth-El, Rochester, for eight years.
In 1975 I came to Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD where I remain. I have been a member of the viola section of the South Dakota Symphony since 1975 and organist at First Baptist Church since 1980.Before that I was at Augustana Lutheran in Sioux Falls. I came as Chairman and remained in this position for eleven years. I teach theory, composition, string techniques, music history and music literature.