Home » Uncategorized » Gail Kubik and Gerald McBoing Boing

Gail Kubik and Gerald McBoing Boing

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Gail Thompson Kubik (September 5, 1914– July 20, 1984) was an American composer, music director, violinist, and teacher.  Born at South Coffeyville, OK, to a father of Bohemian descent and a mother who was a concert singer and student of Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Kubik and all his siblings were subjected to a musical grounding from earliest childhood. In 1930, the Kubiks formed a chamber ensemble that toured the American midwest until 1937.  In 1929, Kubik was awarded a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music. In addition, Kubik studied at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago with Leo Sowerby, and Harvard University with Walter Piston and Nadia Boulanger. Many college students of the 1930s endured the Depression by staying within the educational system, and Kubik likewise passed the entire decade either as a student or teacher. He taught violin and composition at Monmouth College and composition and music history at Columbia University Teachers College (1937). He took violin from Samuel Belov and Scott Willits, and premiered his First Violin Concerto in Chicago in 1938. Also in 1938, Kubik attracted attention through a work based on folklore, In Praise of Johnny Appleseed, for bass-baritone, chorus, and orchestra.

In 1940, Kubik left the teacher’s college at Columbia University in order to take a position as staff composer in New York City, NY, writing music for radio drama programs at the NBC Radio Studio.  In 1942, Kubik scored his first film, The World At War. This won an NAACC award, and Kubik was named musical director for the for the military film unit, the Motion Picture Bureau, at the Office of War Information, headed by Frank Capra, where, during World War II, he composed and conducted the music scores of motion pictures including the Why We Fight series.  One of them, The Memphis Belle, he turned into a concert work with narrator. During this time, Kubik’s Second Violin Concerto won a competition sponsored by Jascha Heifetz. Joining ASCAP in 1945, Kubik was discharged from the military in 1946 and from 1946 he was guest professor at USC.  Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, he composed a folk opera, A Mirror for the Sky, and a ballet for dance band and singer, Frankie and Johnny.

The late 1940s were busy for Kubik, scoring films, writing his First Symphony and fulfilling commissions. In 1950, Kubik collaborated with Ted Geisel (also known as “Dr. Seuss”) on a project entitled Gerald McBoing Boing, the first fruit of which was a 78-rpm children’s record narrated by Harold Peary (The Great Gildersleeve). Geisel sold Gerald McBoing Boing to Steven Bosustow of UPA, who produced it as an animated cartoon directed by Bob Cannon. Gerald McBoing Boing won an Oscar in 1951 for best animated short; Kubik earned another for its music. In 1950-51 Kubik was the recipient of the Prix de Rome and served three years at the St. Cecilia Academy in Rome, Italy. In 1952, he composed his Sinfonia Concertante, which earned him the 1952 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In 1953, Kubik published a concert version of Gerald McBoing Boing, which has been a children’s concert staple ever since. In 1955, Kubik returned to the U.S. to write his final film score, The Desperate Hours, and responded with his Third Symphony to a commission from Dmitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic.

In 1959, Kubik returned to Europe, ostensibly to teach and compose, until 1967, but little was accomplished in this second European sojourn. From 1960 he was a lecturer under the auspices of UNESCO.  Returning to Kansas State University in 1967, Kubik was happy to accept a President’s commission for A Record of Our Time, set for narrator, vocal soloist, chorus, and orchestra. With a text compiled by Kubik and novelist Harvey Swados, this was premiered in Manhattan, KS, on November 11, 1970, with Ray Milland as narrator. That same year, Kubik accepted his final teaching post, composer-in-residence at Scripps College in Claremont, California, that he held until his retirement in 1980. Kubik’s last major work was Magic, Magic, Magic, composed in 1976 for the Texas Bicentennial, and premiered in San Antonio. Kubik, a National Patron of Delta Omicron which is an international professional music fraternity, died at age 69 in Covina, CA, on July 20, 1984.

The following work by Gail Kubik is contained in my collection:

Gerald McBoing Boing.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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