Bienen School of Music alumnus Howard Reich (77), a longtime music and arts columnist for the Chicago Tribune, will be the featured speaker for the Bienen School’s convocation on Saturday, June 22, 2019 at 9 a.m. in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.
Reich is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, author of six critically applauded books, and a critic/columnist for the Chicago Tribune. A son of two Holocaust survivors, Reich uncovered his parents’ unspoken story and brought it to the screen in Prisoner of Her Past, a PBS documentary he wrote, co-produced and narrated. Based on Reich’s book of the same name, the film has aired more than 500 times in 140-plus markets across the United States, including annually on WTTW-Ch. 11 in Chicago and beyond. The New York Daily News said of the film: “Be brave enough to sit for an hour. You will never forget it.”
Reich’s newly published book, The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel, builds on Reich’s research into his family’s narrative. He worked on the project with Professor Wiesel, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, during the last four years of Wiesel’s life. If Prisoner of Her Past was Reich’s attempt to learn what happened to his parents, The Art of Inventing Hope is his quest to comprehend why. Kirkus Reviews, a publishing industry bible, gave the book a rare starred review and called it a “moving work (that) artfully intertwines Wiesel’s words of wisdom with Reich’s quest to further understand his own family’s untold story.”
Jelly’s Blues: The Life, Music and Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton (which Reich wrote with William Gaines) is based on a cache of previously unknown letters the first jazz composer penned a few years before his death. Reich found the correspondence buried in a New Orleans archive and, with Gaines, proved that Morton had been swindled by his Chicago music publishers and by ASCAP. The Los Angeles Times called the book “a fascinating new view of a still underrated and misunderstood titan.” Studs Terkel called it “the definitive” biography of Morton.
Reich’s writings on music for the Chicago Tribune have been published in two collections: “Portraits in Jazz” and “Let Freedom Swing.” He is in post-production on his third documentary film, Left-Handed Pianist, based on his Chicago Tribune stories about a man wounded by his father in childhood who launched his concert career at age 78.
Reich holds two honorary doctorate degrees. He has served on the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Music four times, including the first time a jazz work won: Wynton Marsalis’ Blood on the Fields (1997). In addition to the Emmy Award, Reich has won two Deems Taylor Awards from ASCAP; Alumni Merit Award from Northwestern University’s Alumni Association; Bravo Award from Dominican University; Anne Keegan Award and eight Peter Lisagor Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. The Chicago Journalists Association named him Chicago Journalist of the Year in 2011.
Reich has covered music and the arts for the Chicago Tribune since 1978, joining the staff in 1983.