Established in 1972 as the Alumni Achievement Award, the Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes alumni whose exceptional professional achievements, contributions to their chosen field, and service to the Eastman School of Music have brought honor to themselves and to the University of Rochester.
Highly acclaimed for its scope and versatility, the music of Gene Scheer has captivated audiences across the United States and abroad. An extraordinarily gifted librettist and songwriter, Gene has crafted a mosaic of compositions that have received overwhelming ovations in grand opera houses, landmark concert halls, and symphonic stages. A prolific composer, he has written songs for renowned soloists, legendary opera stars, and world-class orchestras. Over the course of a distinguished 35-year career, his collaborative work has earned numerous industry accolades, including a Grammy nomination for his work with Steven Stucky on the oratorio August 4, 1964. Widely acknowledged, Gene was also a Grammy nominee for best contemporary classical composition as the librettist on Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain. His operatic adaptation went on to win the International Opera Award for best world premiere in 2015. His original piece, “American Anthem,” was prominently featured in Ken Burns’ Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary, The War. An inspiration and role model to the Eastman community, Gene and longtime creative partner Jake Heggie enriched and enlightened Rochester students during a weeklong residency in early 2017, working with the Eastman Opera Theatre’s artistic team and singers on the production of Out of Darkness and Into the Fire. For his outstanding achievements and contributions to music, and for representing his alma mater with such distinction, the Eastman School of Music proudly honors Gene Scheer as one of our most distinguished alumni.