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Renowned Composer John Duffy Remembered as Friend to ODU, Hampton Roads

Acclaimed composer John Duffy, whose manuscripts and other memorabilia from a distinguished musical career are housed in Old Dominion University's F. Ludwig Diehn Composers Room, died Dec. 22 at the age of 89.

The Bronx-born Duffy, widely regarded as one of the country's most versatile and accomplished composers of music for television, theatre, film and opera, was long-connected to the University, to Hampton Roads and to the Virginia Arts Festival.

Duffy composed more than 300 works and was a two-time Emmy award winner, as well as the recipient of the New York State Governor's Art Award and the American Music Center's Founders' Award for Lifetime Achievement.

A passionate advocate for the development of new generations of composers, Duffy founded and directed the John Duffy Composer Institute at Old Dominion, in conjunction with the Virginia Arts Festival. He received an honorary doctorate from the University in 2013.

His institute was an incubator for operatic composers, exposing them to guest performers, librettists and mentors. Duffy also founded the Meet the Composer project in 1974 for the New York State Council for the Arts, which engaged active composers with musicians and audiences and supported composers internationally in a number of ways.

"The Old Dominion community is saddened to learn of John Duffy's passing," University President John R. Broderick said. "Mr. Duffy was not only a beloved advocate for new music and young artists, but he was a dedicated educator who inspired students and colleagues with his humility, musical vision and creative energy. Old Dominion is honored that John Duffy's legacy will live on through his archives at the Diehn Center."

Duffy donated his materials to the Old Dominion University Libraries' F. Ludwig Diehn Composers Room in 2011. The collection includes handwritten manuscript scores, recordings, awards, programs, photographs and other memorabilia.

The collection is available to the public. The John Duffy Papers can be found online through the Diehn Composers Room page.

Duffy's connection to eastern Virginia dates back 50 years through his marriage to Dorothy Rouse-Bottom, an owner and editor of The Daily Press newspaper. The couple divorced but Duffy maintained his connection to the area while spending much of his time in the Northeast, especially New York City.

He was a former Golden Gloves boxer and a Navy enlistee who served in World War II as an underwater scout. He focused on his music after the war as he sought knowledge and peace through his growing study of Gandhi.

In a 2012 interview with the Virginian-Pilot, Virginia Arts Festival director Rob Cross said of Duffy, "People don't realize how much of his composing career he sacrificed to help other composers and to raise awareness for the importance of treating composers as professionals."

A memorial concert for Duffy will be held Jan. 10 at the Robin Hixon Theater at the Clay and Jay Barr Education Center at 440 Bank St. in Norfolk. The family asks that contributions be made to the John Duffy Composers Institute c/o the Virginia Arts Festival in lieu of flowers.

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