Music Feature: Nancy Bloomer Deussen

Nancy Bloomer Deussen: Determined, Devoted, Distinguished

By Virgnia Franklin Campbell, Music Editor, and Verne D. Campbell

Nancy Bloomer Deussen

Nancy Bloomer Deussen, whose composition for orchestra, “Trinity Alps,” won first place in NLAPW’s first conferring of the Vinnie Ream Awards, is a woman of incredible talent, a survivor, and a devoted wife and mother, all while being a humble and engaging woman.

Nancy was born and raised in New York City. Although very poor, her father was a musician and worked in the recording industry. That would play significantly in Nancy’s early years, as he offered free recordings to her music teacher in return for piano lessons.

Cover of "Trinity Alps for orchestra" composed by Nancy Bloomer Deussen

The cover of Deussen’s composition,“Trinity Alps,” which won the NLAPW Vinnie Ream Award, was designed by one of her daughters. It is, in itself, a work of art and hangs in the League president’s apartment in The Pen Arts Building and Art Museum, Washington, DC.

Nancy’s mother, Julia Van Norman, was also a friend of George Gershwin, which undoubtedly left an impression on Nancy’s young life. Her father also taught her music notation, and she wrote her first composition for piano at age 11.

“I always knew I was a composer; I was born with perfect pitch*, which is inherited. I started playing melodies by ear on the piano at about age 4 or 5, and started ‘official’ piano lessons at age 6 or 7,” she says.

Composing ”Reflections on the Hudson”

Ms. Deussen attended Manhattan School of Music in New York City and received a degree in musical composition. Because she had recently married, and was expecting a child and suffering from morning sickness, it prevented her from actually completely her final project, “Reflections on the Hudson,” an orchestral piece. When she and her husband moved to Los Angeles, she gained the help of a music professor and was able to complete her orchestral project, thereby finalizing her bachelor of music degree.

The famous 20th century composer Lukas Foss conducted a reading of her “Reflections on the Hudson” and as a result of his enthusiasm for her work, invited her to attend his composition class at UCLA as an “unofficial” student. “I composed part of a mass while in his class which was performed at Redlands University in 1955.

Challenges in divorce, anxiety

“However, my husband disapproved of my composition and the marriage ended in divorce. I was left to be a single mother to my 2- year-old son,” she says.

Nancy displayed the strength that would serve her well throughout her life as she realized she needed to change focus, so she returned to school, this time at USC, and worked to receive a teaching credential in secondary level music and a second degree in music education. Following that, she taught music in the Los Angeles Public Schools at the high school level, but still managed to compose two works: one for choir and orchestra titled “Serpent,” which premiered in Palo Alto; and a second work, “Woodwind Quintet,” which premiered in Los Angeles.

Nancy married for the second time and the unthinkable happened. He was not just against her being a musician, but was particularly opposed to her being a composer. However, she has two beautiful daughters because of that union, for which she is very grateful.

After the end of her second marriage, Nancy had a period of almost 20 years during which she composed little or no music. “I started suffering from anxiety and was given a prescription for valium. As the months and years went by on the prescription, the music completely disappeared and I had no creative ideas, nor did I care,” she says.

New direction and rediscovery

Nancy left teaching in the public schools, opened a private teaching studio, and played in nightclubs. During this same period, she also became a piano technician. Near the end of this compositional drought, she married her present supportive, loving husband, and shortly after in 1983, she came off the pills to which she had become addicted.

“I was in recovery for almost a year — some of the hardest months in my life — and then after almost a year off the pills, in one miraculous flash, my music returned and I again heard original music in my head,” she says. “I believe this was a gift from God. I returned to composition and have been composing ever since.

Many miraculous things have happened since. Both ‘Reflections on the Hudson’ and ‘Woodwind Quintet’ have won national first-place awards. I composed almost a hundred new compositions with performances all over the USA, Canada, various countries in Europe, U.K., the Ukraine, Australia, China, Indonesia, and even Iran.”

Recognition

Nancy has won many awards and has been commissioned to write numerous pieces. She plans to keep composing as long as she lives. We are blessed to have a woman of such immense talent in our midst and grateful for her continued support of Pen Women and the Santa Clara Branch.

Nancy Bloomer Deussen is a woman of determination who has overcome many trials in life. Her devotion to her family and her art is truly remarkable, and she gives thanks to her Creator for bringing her composing ability out of “the cloud.” We, as Pen Women, are blessed to know this distinguished woman of music.

Audio links to some of Nancy’s works and more information can be found at www.nancybloomerdeussen.com and www.wendellmusic.com.

*Perfect pitch, or absolute pitch is a rare auditory phenomenon characterized by the ability of a person to identify or recreate a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.