In Memoriam: Professor Morris ‘Arnie’ Lang, ‘a Giant in the World of Percussion’

The Graduate Center community is deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Morris “Arnie” Lang, an accomplished percussionist and former teacher in the Music doctoral program. He died on July 5, 2021, at age 89.

Lang taught at the Graduate Center faculty as an adjunct professor from 2007 until 2018, following his retirement from Brooklyn College, where he was a faculty member from 1979 until his retirement in 2007.

Lang played with the New York Philharmonic from 1955 to 1995. During that time, he worked with renowned conductors, including Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Mazur, and Zubin Mehta. He played on hundreds of recordings and made television appearances with the Philharmonic, including Bernstein’s famous Young People’s Concerts and Live from Lincoln Center.

In 1976, he bought his own printing press and started Lang Publishing Company, which published his own material as well as compositions by friends. He also manufactured percussion products, including mallets, timpani, snare drums, and drum sets.

Lang was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2000.

According to a Percussive Arts Society tribute, he started the Brooklyn College percussion department from scratch, with just four timpani, an old snare drum, and a xylophone. He later played a lead role in the doctoral percussion program at the Graduate Center.

“Morris Lang was a giant in the world of percussion,” said Professor Norman Carey, executive officer of the Ph.D.-D.M.A. Program in Music. “A longtime member of the New York Philharmonic’s percussion section during and after Leonard Bernstein’s tenure with the orchestra, Arnie was a legend among legends. He was a tireless and dedicated teacher, universally admired by his students. I will always cherish his warmth and kindness and will stand in awe of a lifetime of achievement in the musical arts. He was also a builder of community through his involvement with the Percussive Arts Society and other organizations. A fearless champion of new music, Arnie was enormously influential in promoting and advocating for contemporary composition. We are all deeply grateful for the connection we were privileged to have with Maestro Lang.”

“I am very saddened at this news,” said Jacqueline Martelle, assistant program officer of the Ph.D.-D.M.A. Program in Music. “Over the years, I have had many conversations with Arnie about music, life, our graduate students, his various charitable music projects, and a myriad number of other topics, always stimulating and fresh. He was truly a bright light and will be greatly missed.”

Submitted on: JUL 9, 2021

Category: Faculty | General GC News | In Memoriam | Music Ph.D. - D.M.A