In Memoriam: Wayne Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Music

Monday, April 19, 2021
Wayne Peterson sitting at a piano with sheet music and holding a pencil in his left hand

WASHINGTON POST -- Wayne Peterson, an American composer and educator whose “The Face of the Night, the Heart of the Dark” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1992 over the public objections of the Pulitzer jury, died April 7 at his home in San Francisco. He was 93.

For 30 years, Mr. Peterson had been a composer, pianist and professor at San Francisco State University, respected by most musicians who knew his work and highly regarded by his students.

Awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 1952, he studied in England at the Royal Academy of Music, where he worked with the composers Lennox Berkeley and Howard Ferguson. He taught at what became San Francisco State University from 1960 to 1991 and was a guest professor of composition at Stanford University from 1992 to 1994.

In all, Mr. Peterson wrote more than 80 works for orchestra, chorus and chamber ensembles. His awards included fellowships and commissions from the Guggenheim, Koussevitzky and Fromm foundations as well as an award of distinction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

His partner of 42 years, Ruth Knier, predeceased him by seven weeks.

Survivors include four sons from his marriage, Alan Peterson and Drew Peterson, both of Greenbrae, California; Craig Peterson of San Rafael, California, and Grant Peterson of Chico, California; and two grandchildren.