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Delano, Jack

Classical music composer Jack Delano was born in 1914 in Kiev, Ukraine. His family emigrated to the United States in 1923, when he was nine years old.

His earliest music training was at the Settlement Music School and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia although he was also interested in graphic arts and photography, which he also studied there. Recognizing the young man’s talents, he was awarded a scholarship to attend the well known Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), also in Philadelphia.

Shortly after graduation from PAFA, in 1940, Roy Stryker offered Delano an opportunity to work with the Farm Security Administration, a New Deal project to travel throughout the Eastern United States to help document the effects of the economic depression and mobilization for World War II. Delano took the job; working with a small but highly select and talented group of colleagues such as Dorothea Lange, Marjory Collins, John Vachon, Mary Post Wolcott, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks, Arthur Rothstein, Charlotte Brooks, Carl Mydans and Ben Shahn.

As a part of this project, Delano travelled to Puerto Rico in 1941; a trip that had a profound effect on him. While he saw and photographed the poverty that was worse than he had seen in any part of the United States, he was struck by the “the dignity, indomitable spirit, and unquenchable sense of humor of the people in the face of the most appalling adversity.”

Delano spent a scant three months on the island and resolved to return. Following the war, in which he served as a photographer, he returned to Puerto Rico in 1946 and settled there permanently. Delano immersed himself into the cultural life of the island he had come to love and call his home.

His work in Puerto Rico included photography and educational films made for the island’s Education Department and a public television network. Delano also collaborated witrh his wife Irene as a book illustrator.

But his musical talents were also exercised, composing the Sonata for Viola and Piano in 1953. The composition melded the melodic and rhythmic themes of Puerto Rican folk music he had heard during his travels throughout the island, into the sonata form.

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