Robert Washburn is Dean and Professor Emeritus and Senior Fellow in Music at the Crane School of Music of the State University of New York at Potsdam. After completing his undergraduate studies at Potsdam he was awarded a Danforth Foundation Fellowship to complete a Ph.D. in composition at the Eastman School of Music where he worked with Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers and Alan Hovhaness. Further studies included a summer at the Aspen Music School where he studied with Darius Milhaud, and a season in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. He also participated in seminars at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Oxford in England.
Washburn later received a Ford Foundation Grant which permitted him to devote a year to composition and has received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Juilliard Repertory Project, and Meet the Composer. He is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony and held a scholarship at the Bennington Composers Conference. Subsequently he was awarded a SUNY Foundation Summer Fellowship to compose Symphony for Band. Other honors have included the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Potsdam College Alumni Association's Minerva Award, and a SUNY Faculty Exchange Scholar appointment. His military service in the USAF included duty as chief arranger for the Air Force Band of the West and the Air Force Sinfonietta and he spent a year as a member of the San Antonio Symphony.
Among the many orchestras which have performed Washburn's works are the Baltimore Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, Denver Symphony, Eastman-Rochester Symphony, Florida West Coast Symphony, Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Nashville Symphony, National Gallery Orchestra, Oklahoma City Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Syracuse Symphony, Tucson Symphony, Vancouver (BC) Symphony, and the Wichita Symphony. Wind/Percussion groups have included the Dallas Wind Symphony, Eastman Wind Ensemble, Crane Wind Ensemble, Osaka Municipal Concert Band, Tokyo Wind Symphony, Washington D.C. Military Services Bands and numerous college and university groups. Many of the performances have been under the composer's direction, including those of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Guadalajara (Mexico), the Cairo Symphony, Cairo National Conservatory Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of the American University in Cairo, Youth Symphony of the Ile de France, and, in the UK, The Royal Air Force Band, Band of the Royal Marines, Royal Military School of Music Band, the band of the Royal Northern College of Music, Royal Scottish Academy of Music and the Birmingham Conservatory. He conducted a number of his works at the Brevard Music Center where he was composer-in-residence.
Since 1961 Washburn has been the recipient of annual awards from ASCAP. He has received a number of commissions for works which have been heard at such events as the American Music Festival of the Eastman School, the American Music Festival of the National Gallery, the Indiana State University Contemporary Music Festival, the Spring Festival of the Arts at SUNY Potsdam, the Inter-American Symposium of the University of Texas, the San Jose Festival, Expo '67 in Montreal, the Farnham Festival in England, and the St. Moritz Festival in Switzerland. His works have appeared on programs in Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Symphony Hall in Boston, the Philadelphia Academy of Music, and at the White House, where he was the guest of Mrs. John Kennedy and the Royal Cultural Center in Amman, Jordan, where he was the guest of Queen Noor. In 1980 he was commissioned to compose music for the opening ceremonies of the Lake Placid Winter Olympics which were broadcast over ABC, CBC and BBC television.
More than 150 of Washburn's compositions have been published by Warner Bros./Belwin, Boosey and Hawkes, Oxford University Press, G. Schirmer, Theodore Presser, Shawnee Press and Thompson Edition. As well as orchestral and concert band works, they include many choral works and chamber instrumental ensembles which are widely performed. His works are recorded on the Toshiba-EMI, Golden Crest, Crystal, Mark, and Citadel labels. He has written articles for Music Journal, Journal for Research in Music Education, Woodwind, Brass & Percussion, The Composer, The Instrumentalist, Music Educators Journal and the New York State School Music News. He has served on the editorial board of the Music Educators Journal, on the Advisory Committee of the N.Y. State School Music Association, and as music consultant for the N.Y. State Department of Education, the U.S. Office of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is listed as a biographee in Grove's Dictionary of American Music and Musicians, Baker's Biographical Dictionary, International Who's Who in Music, Who's Who in America, the ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, Machlis' Introduction to Contemporary Music, and other reference resources.
In addition to his activities as composer and teacher, Washburn is a specialist in the musics of Africa and Asia and has made a number of field study trips to those areas, including a sabbatical leave spent in North Africa and the Middle East, a Fulbright Senior Fellowship in Cairo, Egypt, and an African Comparative Cross Culture Study Program in Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Tanzania and Ethiopia. He has participated in seminars in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University and York University in England. Currently he is authoring the portion of a college music text dealing with non-western music. The book is under contract with Harcourt-Brace Publishing Co.