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Robert Avalon music collection

Identifier: MS 0612
Finding aid note: Stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request this material via or call 713-348-2586.

Scope and Contents

The lion’s share of this collection consists of the composer’s complete music portfolio from solo instrumental works to large-scale orchestral compositions, as well as the earliest unpublished compositions and arrangements. Musical sketches, manuscripts, self-published scores, and instrumental parts are arranged chronologically by genre.

The collection also contains materials related to the opera, Carlota, which the composer commenced in the early 1990s, but never completed due to his untimely death. The collection also houses concert flyers, programs, and reviews that date as far back to the composer’s formative period. Correspondence between friends and family members as well as associates can be found in all the periods of the composer’s life.

The collection also houses a substantial number of audio recordings of concerts, lectures, radio interviews, rehearsals and studio recording sessions, many of which Avalon participated as performer. The collection features a trove of photographs documenting the composer’s personal and professional life. Audiocassettes and DAT format recordings have been digitized and preserved in Woodson's nearline environment, under identifier # MS0612aip_001. Access may be requested at using that identifier.


  • Creation: ca. 1955-2010


Conditions Governing Access

Stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request this material via or call 713-348-2586.

Access Restrictions

This material is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish from this material must be facilitated through the Woodson Research Center, Rice University.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Avalon, 1955-2004

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Robert Avalon (née Robert White) started to play the piano at age five and began his formal musical training at seven. While attending high school, he studied music at Trinity University in San Antonio and at Interlochen in Michigan. He continued his studies with Etsko Tazaki, Clara Rolland, and Shirley Parnus-Adams (St. Louis and Chicago). The composer officially changed his last name in 1986 by adopting his mother’s middle name.

Early in his career, Avalon held several music positions, including serving as church organist in St. Louis and San Antonio. As a pianist, Avalon performed large works from the solo repertoire, including the entire Well-Tempered Clavier of Bach (1983). He also performed extensively as a chamber music collaborator, including the Beethoven Piano Trio cycle with members of the San Antonio Symphony (1984), the chamber music for piano and strings by Brahms (1988). Avalon is credited for introducing and developing the concept of the home concert, many of which he organized and participated in the San Antonio and Houston areas.

Robert Avalon never received formal training in music composition. As a self-taught composer, Avalon received numerous grants and commissions from organizations and performers. In 1982, he composed and performed the score to Bernard Pomerance’s “The Elephant Man” for the Permian Playhouse in San Antonio. He received a commission from the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures to compose his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 10, which he performed with members of the San Antonio Symphony in celebration of Texas' sesquicentennial. That same year he was commissioned by the San Antonio Festival to write a large work entitled Elegy to the Warriors, Op. 12 for baritone voices and orchestra.

In 1987 Avalon was the recipient of the first Texas Music Teachers Association "Composer of the Year" award for which he composed Piano Sextet, Op. 14. The Pablo Casals Museum of San Juan, Puerto Rico, extended a commission for a cello sonata in 1988 to commemorate the birthday of the legendary Casals. Avalon gave the world premiere of this Sonata, Op. 17 at the Casals Museum. A year later, he was invited again to premiere several other works including his Viola Sonata, Op. 19 and his Piano Sextet, Op. 21.

After moving to Houston in the spring of 1990, Avalon was invited to present a concert of his works to open the annual Festival of American Contemporary Music at Rice University in the fall of 1990. Avalon was also honored by several professional organizations including the Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts (TALA) at their gala in 1993, the first musician chosen by that organization for their annual award. As Composer-in-Residence of Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA), Avalon continued to mentor young talent in the Houston-area as well as students from Mexico. His piano students were recipients of awards from state, national and international music competitions and have performed with major orchestras. Several students went on to study at the Julliard School of Music.

While in Houston, Avalon continued to follow an active schedule as performer and composer. Several large benefit concerts featuring his music were organized in 1997 in three Texas cities. Two compact discs of his major works were released by Centaur Records in 1999 and 2000, both of which received critical acclaim. In 2002, Avalon completed a successful tour to England, where his works were premiered on a program at Wigmore Hall, a renowned recital venue in London, England. In the late 1990s, he assumed the role of artistic director at the Foundation of Modern Music, which continues to promote the works of living composers to this day. For more than a decade Robert Avalon devoted his energies to operatic work Carlota, which he was not able to complete due to his untimely death. In 2004, Avalon died from cardiac arrest the day after learning that he was diagnosed with cancer.


13.5 Linear Feet ( (10 boxes plus oversize))

62 Gigabytes (Digitized audio from audiocassettes and DAT format tape, stored nearline under identifier # MS0612aip_001)

Language of Materials



Robert Avalon (1955-2004) was an independent musician, who lived the last 15 years of his life in Houston, Texas, where he established himself as a prominent composer, performer, and teacher. His compositions represent an important body of work reflecting several trends in the modern music scene in the Texas area. The lion’s share of this collection consists of the composer’s complete music portfolio from solo instrumental works to large-scale orchestral compositions, as well as the earliest unpublished compositions and arrangements.


The collection is arranged into several broad chronological periods of Avalon’s career as performer and composer.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This material was donated by Robert Avalon's mother, Gloria White in 2013.

Guide to the Robert Avalon music collection, ca. 1955-2010
Anthony Potozcniak
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA